The Great Debate in Mahāyāna Buddhism
Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Powell II received his Ph. D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (1997) through advisor Geshe Lhundhup Sopa and he was the last graduate of a once internationally renowned program. He also studied theology at Cambridge, received his Master of Divinity (MDIV) degree from the University of Chicago and received his BA in Religion with a focus on Buddhism (1985) with his advisor Dr. Isshi Yamada.
This work evolved from a dissonance in interpreting the two principle Mahāyāna schools ascertained through studies first with Dr. Yamada and Geshe Sopa. The former, Dr. Yamada imparted an East Asian interpretation that privileged the Yogācāra as the more sophisticated and evolved awareness among the two
schools, incorporating the core Mahāyāna doctrine of śūnyatā, “zeroness” or more commonly known as “emptiness” within the framework of an extensive system of understanding the nature of consciousness. The latter Madhyamaka school will insist that even consciousness is a “centaur castle in the sky” a “sky flower” and hence, has no ultimate existence. This I learned from my Tibetan and hence, Central Asian teacher, Geshe Sopa. Resolving this dispute over consciousness is the aim of this book.
By Unknown - Controversy at Panadura or Panadura Vadaya by Pranith Abhayasundra - 1990 (Book), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19224
This work arises from a period of five years of puzzlement at the diverging interpretations of the Yogācāra and Madhyamaka Schools which I received from my teachers, Geshe Lhundhup Sopa and Dr. Isshi Yamada, for whom I must reserve my deepest gratitude out of great respect for their guidance through the extremely difficult jungle which is Mahāyāna philosophical tradition.
The extent to which the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra Schools are to be harmonized or differentiated is the subject of this investigation. Is the Yogācāra School a synthesis of Abhidharma and Madhyamaka and a more extensive yet harmonious elaboration of both, as I was taught by Dr. Yamada during the course of my B.A. studies at Northwestern and M.Div. studies at the University of Chicago?
Or is the Yogācāra tradition an “extensive method,” a preliminary approach, or upāya, for disciples of the Mahāyāna tradition to enter ultimately into the definitive expression of the Buddha’s truth - as found in the Madhyamaka tradition - as can be captured by verbal expression, as I was taught by Geshe Sopa? _______________________
Further expressions of gratitude must be extended to Professor Minoru Kiyota, who encouraged a balanced view of the two schools, which kept my sympathies toward the Madhyamaka School in proper perspective, keeping students mindful of Japanese perspectives on a wide variety of topics, including those relevant to this study. To Professor Gudrun Bühnemann, for her emphasis on precision and caution in translating Tibetan and Sanskrit terms, but absolutely without fault for errors found in this work. _______________________
In addition to these professors in our department, I also wish to express thanks to Professor Christopher Rowland, formerly of Jesus College, Cambridge who endowed me with a much deeper appreciation of the multivalence of meaning and the implications of social realities impacting ancient religious texts; to Professor David Tracy of the University of Chicago, my Master’s dissertation advisor whose profound plumbing of philosophical depths, helped to deepen my own awareness of philosophical complexities as they arise in the new context of this investigation. Professor Arthur Droge at the University instilled an awareness of the depth of implicit meanings to be found among religious texts. ____________________
I must further express deepest gratitude to my late father, whose debate and argumentation with me about religious issues doubtless inspired the allure the debates within the Mahāyāna tradition have held for me. Concomitantly, I am grateful to my mother for imbuing me with some modicum of compassion to balance this great love of debate, so that I might more effectively avoid polemics here. I hope that in some small measure, I may represent something of what I have learned from my superb teachers.
Addendum: I wrote this far back in 1997 and feared to publish it due to imperfection. Evolving my online teaching expertise has been my goal almost since my graduation. One of my schools is seeking evidence of publishing, so here it goes…self-publishing a book should suffice for my lecturer status. I have
been absorbed by instruction and neglected the field, but perhaps some knowledgeable lay person will get some benefit from my old work. Who knows? There might be insight to some degree for current scholars in the field. After all, many of the insights I share are due to learning from my eminent teachers,
Dr. Isshi Yamada and Geshe Lhundhup Sopa. All the diacritics disappeared from the old file, but with some perseverance, I believe I got them all correctly done. Pardon any errors. This is already overdue for a revision! I will hope the extensive outline of contents here will provide easy access to the many arguments as well as the overall import of this book.
Finally, please let me clarify that when I use the terms “Mind Only” or “Cittamātrin” it is in the more pejorative context of Gelukpa abuse of these many schools, implying the existence of a mind that functions like a “soul”, anathema to the Buddha’s teaching. I employ a number of finessed terms for a
variety of “Yogācāra” (the better word), along with “Vijñāptivāda”, even Vijñāptimātravādin”. So please do not be confused. It is a fallacy to thin of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra as opposing schools. One should think of them more as one would yin and yang…they blend and merge and oppose each other in a tremendous variety of ways. Here is one perspective, largely a Mongolian one, but I offer counter-arguments also I believe.
I seek to simplify these arguments in time, but for now, please appreciate my attempt at unpacking the work on the Cittamātra section of the great lCang kya II’s great treasury of Buddhist debates, his “Beautiful Ornament of the Limits of Proofs. (sGrub mTHa DZes rGyan) and to some extent, adjudicating a core dispute between the two principal Mahāyāna Schools, the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra, and the nature of consciousness, but more intriguingly, the nature of self-awareness.
Some words concerning terminology.
Occidental sympathizers: van der Leeuw and Bourdieu
Proposal of a Mahayanist metatheory
The application of these for our study
CHAPTER 2: INTRODUCTION: YOGĀCĀRA - MADHYAMAKA DISPUTES FROM NĀGĀRJUNA TO ROL PA’I RDO RJE LCANG SKYA II
The multivalent aspects of this study.
Is this school 'Idealist?'
The definitive and interpretable.
Legendary origin of the three cycles.
Definitive versus provisional doctrines.
Interpretable nature of the first cycle.
Nihilism in the Second Cycle?
The Second Cycle: for the prideful who ‘lack roots of virtue.
Two wrong attitudes with regard to the Second Cycle doctrines.
The third of the three natures: the perfected.
The Sajdhinirmocanasūtra as definitive Madhyamaka text.
Adhering to a mistaken emptiness.
Ultimacy versus ultimate truth.
Conventionality versus conventional truth.
The face in the mirror.
Asaṅga's answer to the question of ultimacy.
Prior states condition posterior states.
All is strictly imaginary?
The real basis of the concealing.
A Lotus arises from its seed.
Arguments in favor of establishing a basis for phenomena
Interwovenness-with-other is established by direct experience.
The other-dependent: not ultimately established?
CHAPTER FOUR: SELF-AWARENESS
THREE TOPICS: 1. THE EXTREME VIEW REFUTED, 2. THE ACTUAL MEANING ESTABLISHED AND 3. WARDING OFF ARGUMENTS.
1) refuting wrong notions,
2)establishing the actual meaning and
3) warding off objections
The second of three topics: establishing the actual meaning.
1. The manner in which confusion arises.
The irrefutability of self-awareness.
==THE THIRD OF THREE TOPICS: WARDING OFF OPPOSING ARGUMENTS.
Memory is neither different from nor the same as the remembered event.
Without external entities, there is no stage upon which the consciousness may act.
As the object of knowledge falls, so falls the knower.
CHAPTER FIVE: REFUTATION OF THE EXTREME OF (ŚRĀVAKAYĀNA) POSITIVISM
Summary of the Sautrāntika position.
Summary of the Sautrāntika position.
Continuity and transformation.
The innate aspect.
The conceptualized aspect.
The conceptualized aspect is more easily eradicated.
Tsong kha pa's understanding of this topic in the MS. The self-isolate and the referent category. An opponent’s mistaken notion of the self-isolate. Even the Sautrāntika hold the generic image to be positivism. The opponent's second argument: the basal referent and the other-dependent.
The definitive approach according to lCang skya II The manner in which the Sautrāntika cleave to positivism. The Cittamātrin position: even sense perception is corrupt. Sautrāntika: immediacy of sense perception. Does one strictly imagine entities? The basis of phenomena.
Sautrāntika: the fundamental difference of consciousness and its object. Unmistaken and uncorrupt consciousness. Sautrāntika: the generic image is not ultimately established. The Yogācārin position concerning external entities: propensities and habituation. The Yogācāra position: no external entities. Agreement of all schools of Buddhism: the generic image is a false construct. Buddhist disagreement concerning the referent object. THE FINAL DISTINCTION FOR POSITIVISM: THE EXISTENCE OR NON-EXISTENCE OF EXTERNAL OBJECTS. Yogācāra: the three aspects for the existence of an apparently external object. Habituation towards similar types of objects. Three principal arguments establishing the imputation of names. Prior to a sign, no intellection exists. Many names equate to many entities? The incoherence of sphota theory. Point three: a single name applied to several entities. Syllogism and consequential reasoning.
Opposition to the conception of a 'basal' consciousness: the Bodhicittavivāraṇa. Agreement among the Madhyamaka Masters: the basal consciousness is illusory. Candrakīrti: logically, ultimately there is no such thing as potentiality. The blind would see blue.
The inefficaciousness of Yogācārin meditation: the basal consciousness as 'hindrance.' Tsong kha pa: the difficulties of no doctrine concerning a basal consciousness. The 'interpretable' nature of the doctrine of the basal consciousness.
The Yogācāra maintains a positive approach. The other-dependent is a foundation and mediator. The bridge between the sacred and profane. Madhyamaka: nihilism with regard to the subject. Wayman. Keenan. Harris.
Later ramifications of the dispute.
[[DEMONSTRATION OF OUR THESIS]
APPENDIX A. THE SCHOOLS AND TATHĀGATAGARBHA
Madhyamaka the definitive view of Asaṅga and Maitreya? Discrepancy between no-self doctrine and that of primordially enlightened nature. Tathāgatagarbha thought is connected with both views. Madhyamaka: the definitive stance of Asaṅga and Maitreya. The lack of doctrine concerning the basal consciousness in TGG literature. Tathāgatagarbha absorbed in Mind-only system. Danger of nihilism in the Perfection of Wisdom literature. Tathāgatagarbha theory clarifies emptiness. Relative essentialism in the Cittamātra. Key Cittamātra terms missing from the RGV. Weakness of a garbha theory devoid of the basal consciousness doctrine. Equation of the basal consciousness with the tathāgatagarbha: the Laṅkāvatarasūtra. 'Monstrous' importing of 'self' into Buddhism. The Madhyamaka interpretation of the tathāgatagarbha. Tathāgatagarbha 'alien' infiltration into Madhyamaka? Inherent 'essentialism' in tathāgatagarbha doctrine. Essentialism relative to Madhyamaka thought: Sthiramati. Candrakīrti's counterclaim: the 'syllableless' dharma. The Final issue: is the tathāgatagarbha doctrine definitive or provisional? Candrakīrti's false accusation?
Provisional nature of tathāgatagarbha doctrine: Tsong kha pa. The tathāgatagarbha is a quasi-ātman. Provisionality of the tathāgatagarbha: mKhas grup. Selflessness reconciled with tathāgatagarbha. The Cittamatra approach is upāya. Crypto-ātman. Intentional ground of tathāgatagarbha doctrine. Emptiness in tathāgatagarbha theory refers to the individual mental continuum. Tathāgatagarbha as definitive doctrine. gZhan stong empty of 'other.'
APPENDIX B: SELECTED TIBETAN-SANSKRIT-ENGLISH GLOSSARY
APPENDIX C: SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
MS Mahāyāna Saṃgrāha
=Tibetan Primary sources=
GRS dBu m a la ‘jug pa’i rgya cher bshad pa dgongs pa rab gsal or also simply known as the dGongs pa Rab gSal of Tsong kha pa.
LSN Legs bShad sNying po
GTDG sGrub mTHa DZes rGyan
IIJ Indo-Iranian Journal
JIAB Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
JIP Journal of Indian Philosophy
PEW Philosophy East and West
TJ Tibet Journal
This dissertation is the result of more than thirteen years of study and reflection upon the two central schools of Mahāyāna philosophical tradition and the many issues over which scholars of those traditions debated and for the most part, agreed.
I was first introduced to the basic doctrines of the two schools by Dr. Isshi Yamada while an undergraduate at Northwestern, and later, as a travelling scholar from the University of Chicago. Under his tutelage, I was taught that the two schools co-abide harmoniously within Mahāyāna tradition. The Yogācāra tradition was taught as an enormous expansion and synthesis of the best insights of both the Abhidharma and Prajñāpāramitā traditions. At the ultimate level, at the limits of verbal expression, as Dr. Yamada always reminded us, the last recourse was “finally, then, Nāgārjuna .”
Nāgārjuna’s works elucidated the illusory, falsely bifurcating and discriminating fact of the type of truth that can be expressed in signs, that is to say, syllables, words and sentences, i.e., verbal expression, and through images, both sensorially and conceptually represented. Since all verbal expression is falsely dichotomizing, Nāgārjuna’s efforts demonstrate a “definitive” philosophical stance, in the sense of “the last word” about words, applicable to all standpoints, including the Madhyamaka, particularly when it is falsely seen as a view itself, something Nāgārjuna rejected.
Nevertheless, one may accept the fact of the illusory qualities of language. When one has come to understand that words are useful tools, without which the dharma could not be communicated, then one may well conclude that works of the Yogācāra tradition are no more a distortion of reality by its use of words than are the works of Mādhyamika scholars. The Yogācāra tradition elaborates the categories of the Abhidharma traditions, meditative traditions and the
“negational” approach of the Prajñāpāramitā corpi into one very persuasive, extensive and well-ordered systematic treatment. It orders the “two truths” of Madhyamaka concern into its three-tiered scheme, explicitly inclusive of praxis.
Upon learning of the existence of a living Madhyamaka tradition embodied in the person of Geshe Lhundhup Sopa at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I endeavored to discover what else I might learn of the tradition with which I had become completely transfixed. Expecting to hear roughly the same things to which I had become accustomed with Dr. Yamada, I was somewhat shocked to discover the basic presentation of the schools to be reversed from that which Dr. Yamada had taught me.
Rather than viewing the Yogācāra system as more comprehensive, it was seen rather as more “essentialist” or “foundationalist” Buddhist tradition for lack of better words, than the Madhyamaka. Its doctrines focusing on the centrality of consciousness, the basal consciousness, etc., were all rough preliminaries to the real issue, which is the definitive awareness of śūnyatā as presented by Nāgārjuna and particularly, his Prāsaṅgika followers.
Confronted by these two presentations, I felt distinct cognitive dissonance: which of the two schools is preliminary and which definitive? Is in fact, one of the traditions “superior” to the other, or is this a false and not very useful conception?
Faced with some confusion, I endeavored to resolve it. This is elaborated in the conclusion of this dissertation. Suffice it to say, all three major branches of Buddhist philosophical tradition - Śrāvakayāna, Madhyamaka and Yogācāra Schools, evince a strong desire to demonstrate that their own positions inhabit the true middle path, are definitive and reveal the most profound intentions of the Buddha.
In some sense, all three are correct. They are correct, as Tibetan writers would say, ngor bden pa - “true from a certain point of view.” To determine the provisional and preliminary versus the ultimate and definitive truth of the Buddha, the three traditions rely on logic, example and scripture. Rather than simply negate the truth as presented
by the other schools, each will simply point to its own definitive status and attempt to demonstrate the preliminary status of the others, with the implication that the others serve a purpose - for disciples of relatively inferior mental faculties.
Disclaimer. This study is “interpretable” and “non-definitive” to use Mahāyāna vernacular. Its scope encompasses knowledge for those who aspire to better than average comprehension of the intricacies of the tradition known in the West as “Mahāyāna philosophy.”
This work itself aspires to present in a summary and basic way some of the issues over which the two schools contended. Thus, it is our hope that the trained lay-person and the beginning graduate student may have their awareness of the two main schools of the Mahāyāna tradition enhanced and that perhaps some of the fog surrounding these complex issues may lift.
Whether there is a dispute at all is itself a disputed issue among many modern scholars. While the schools argue about which is the definitive teaching of the Buddha, all will agree that admit that insofar as their doctrines
remain written words and are merely conceptualized by adherents as dogma, their doctrines are indeed yet provisional with regard to the ultimate goal (paramārtha). In this sense the doctrines of all three schools are upāya - useful approaches but not ultimate in and of themselves.
What this work is not. This work is not intended to be a great accomplishment of philological rigor. This work contains very few references to sociological or historical data, for as with most Buddhist philosophical texts, there is no mention of politicians or generals. Although we do elucidate to some extent the development of the disputes from [pseudo?]Nāgārjuna’s terse Bodhicittavivāraṇa to the compendious work of lCang skya II, this is not properly speaking, a history of ideas or of the historical study of the texts. It is philosophy.
Furthermore, this work is not complete in other ways. While engaged in the task of preparing this dissertation, I received very many suggestions for additional comments from other great pundits of Buddhist Studies tradition, and many more scholars and texts which address these subjects were mentioned. Rather than taking on too much, here, I have chosen to present some basic understanding of disputed issues.
What this work is. It is both a descriptive account and yet in other ways, a “normative” account. The focus of this study is a translation of a major Gelukpa summa with a sub-commentary elucidated to the best of my abilities, the meaning of which was recounted to me by a renowned lha rampa Geshe, Geshe Sopa.
This account is descriptive in the sense that it presents straightforwardly a major Geluk interpretation of the Yogācāra system, which itself, aims to be descriptive, even pro-active in presenting the school “from its own side” as it were, i.e. fairly and even aggressively. lCang skya’s Yogācāra siddhānta is no “straw-man” accounting.
Some words concerning terminology. We are employing both terms Yogācāra - Yoga-praxis [School], and Yogācāra the “Mind-only [School]” for our work here somewhat interchangeably except with regard to the translation of our central
text in the sub-commentary and chapters not taken from the translation of our main text. The former term is that with which most are familiar, and the latter is arguably the most inclusive reference to the traditions scholars variously refer to as Vijñānavāda - the “Consciousness [School],” Vijñāptimātravāda - the “Cognition-only School.”
Certainly, many if not most doctrines are shared in common by the schools designated by the above labels, but important distinctions must be made. The consciousness doctrines found in the Laṅkāvatarasūtra are unequivocally not to be simply conflated with the doctrines of Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Sthiramati and so forth, though one finds much interplay among the scholars and texts which are considered to be allied with Mahāyāna doctrines which assert the primacy of consciousness.
Generally however, except for exact usage in the translation of lCang skya’s text which is usually (though not strictly) referring to what he calls most often as the Sems tsam pa or Mind-only system, I will use the term simply Yogācāra , Yoga-praxis, Mind-alone/only, Sems tsam pa, Yogācāra rNam par Shes pa, Vijñānavāda, Conscious alone/only,
Cognition alone/only rNam par rigs pa, Vijñāptimātravāda, and use interchangeably, understanding that the distinctions to be made among these various terms, is dependent upon context and one’s own approach, though efforts have been made towards consistency. A thorough discussion of the issue of the origins or distinctions to be made among these sub-schools belongs to the efforts of others. What is clear however, is that we have at least a “family” of related traditions regardless of distinctions adherents or others might wish to make.
This is, I should hope, an accurate, if not strictly word for word translation. Brackets are supplied with the aim of clarifying thoughts that are again, terse and abbreviated. These may of course be ignored if one seeks a sense of the Tibetan phrasing, etc.
In this dissertation, we propose to present a descriptive textual study that will present the Yogācāra School as seen from the vantage point of the Madhyamaka. We employ as our primary text passages from the Beautiful
Ornament. This work was composed in the middle of the eighteenth century by Rol pa’i rdo rje lCang skya the second, preceptor of the Manchu empire and instructor for arguably its greatest emperor, Qianlong, we will present a preliminary portrait of the school known in the text generally as the “Mind-only” School.
The points at which primary text translation stops and sub-commentary begins follow for the most part points at which Geshe Sopa felt were units of thought. The commentary presents his views as best as I was able to relate them. Often I have used Geshe Sopa’s own terminology in the translation. Equally often I have used synonyms if this aided comprehension. Like many students of Buddhist tradition, I have coined idiosyncratic but useful terms for a number of key terms.
With regard to the use of the terms “positivist” and “nihilismist,” our argument as follows. Initially we took Robert Thurman’s insight that these schools are unlike any Western schools, therefore there is an advantage in
avoiding existing terms. Hence his choices of “reificationism” and “repudiationism” respectively. In discussion with Geshe Sopa I discussed the manner in which the choice of terms was at issue. I explained that the terms nihilismand positivism had a specific context in the occident.
Some may associate the term “nihilism” and think immediately of the works of Nietzsche and others. Others may think of Mill and so forth when the term “positivism” is mentioned. We in almost no way associate our usage of these in this text with specific works of Western scholars to whom we give this appellation. The only connection is in a general sense with the idea of things seen as either existing or non-existing. These connections, if they are at all suitable admittedly deserve fuller treatment than is or purpose here to give.
In the text, “skur ba debs pa” is explicitly defined as med par lta ba or a “view as non-existent.” As with other types of nihilism, the over-negation of the role of consciousness by the Madhyamaka School leads literally to a repudiation of the Buddhadharma and a concomitant undermining of the bodhimārga. Without a foundation of some sort, many may contend that it is difficult to maintain an ethical code, or a focus
This investigation is ordered as followed. Following the initial chapters of methodology and introduction, we have presented these three topics from lCang skya’s summa. We have translated and elucidated a commentary on the main
section of the Ornament which present the Mind-only School’s position on three central topics: nihilism, self-awareness and positivism. We have presented at the end of each chapter, classical Madhyamaka critical examinations of the relevant Yogācāra doctrines and within the footnotes, modern opinions on appropriate aspects of our study.
It will be our purpose to present at least at a preliminary and probing manner, the complexities involved in this issue. The inter-relationship and commonality shared by the two schools will not be obscured in our study simply because we are focusing on disputed issues. I hope that this will be an outcome of our study: we will have presented what have been seen as vital distinctions among elements of the Mahāyānist textual traditions, but the essential unity and shared values and perspectives of the two schools will hopefully have been made clear.
Chapter One: Methodology
One [question] is, which Buddhist are you going to get? Maybe you get a Buddhist from one school which is very atypical. There are a lot of reasons why any common or garden-variety Buddhist is not the Buddhist you want, and also why the Dalai Lama is not the one you want either, because he’s not a typical Tibetan Buddhist. So which Buddhist are going to take to dinner?
Wendy Doniger in Criterion
Doniger’s quote presents of course, a highly Euro-centric position. It implies that Buddhologists from Asia are mere “believers”, and have no “scholars”. Certainly my studies with Isshi Yamada and Lhundhup Sopa proved very much otherwise to me, and in fact, these two made me aware of the biases from the “Western” side of this gulf. One sees in
the vast and diverse ocean of contending paradigms often an incompatibility among them. This methodological section emerges out of a concern that in the area of Buddhist studies, many approaches have been applied in the west to study Buddhism which fail to incorporate the full scope of epistemological and methodological concerns which have motivated Buddhist scholars themselves.
We will begin our examination of the issues by taking on the epistemological task of describing early efforts by western historians of religion to expose the “essence” of a religion (Christianity in this case). We will then move
on to provisionally outlining a methodology which corresponds to the Mahāyānist epistemology we describe at the outset. Finally, we will conclude with a discussion of how traditional western and traditional “eastern” approaches should be conceived from the standpoint of a Mahāyānist approach to the study of religion.
Essentialism in Occidental approaches to the study of religion. The arising of the “scientific” study of religion. In a sense, we can trace the origin of the scientific study of religion back to the attempts of Protestant scholars during the Reformation (ca. 16th century) to render vernacular translations of the Bible and determine objectively exactly what Jesus really said, rather than relying on papal authority to determine biblical truths.
The scientific study of the History of Religions really gets underway in the wake of the philosophical work of Kant (1724-1804) and Hegel (1770-1831). Roughly speaking, Kant held that humans have pre-determined mental categories
which filter reality. Through these categories, one can know nothing of a “thing-in-itself” (Ding-an-sich), one can only know a “thing” or “existent entity” as it appears or manifests itself as a phenomenon. Opposed to phenomena are noumena or “things of the mind” which are beyond the ken of the mental categories.
Such a concept, though taken as a given for a large number of scholars throughout the Occident for nigh two centuries, is scarcely comprehensible to one raised in East Asia, the cultures of which operate under very different understandings of epistemology.
“I have sometimes asked myself, ‘Did China ever produce a mind like Kant’s?’ The answer is, obviously, No. Moreover, she could not. A Chinese Kant would laugh at himself the moment he talked of the Ding-an-sich, the thing
in itself....the Chinese philosopher should feel that there must be qualities and differences in the pear skin and the banana skin corresponding to the resulting differences in touch. Isn’t this knowledge ‘real’? What do you want to know the banana-in-itself and the pear-in-itself for?”
“Divine things” were said by western Idealists to be unknowable noumena and hence a scholar should not be concerned with transcendent categories, e.g. asking questions like “How many angels can sit on the head of a pin?” (a serious debate in medieval Europe).
“A Chinese is well-prepared to hear about Aristotle’s’ Ethics and Politics and Poetics, and is amazed and duly impressed at his breadth, at his knowledge of botany and astronomy and meteorology and biology, crude as his notions often are. The dispassionate inquiry, the curious objective dissection of life
in all its segments in physics and biology (for Aristotle was a medical doctor), is astounding....[however] Confucius had a disciple, Tseshia, who had a propensity for accumulating facts of information, and who was interested in the
birds and insects mentioned in the Book of Songs. Confucius said to him: “Be a gentleman scholar; do not be a petty scholar. That type of knowledge which consists in memorizing facts to answer questions is not worthy to make one a teacher. The Chinese, in fact, are given to the intuitive comprehension of the totality....”
Lin here is more influenced by Confucian thought than Buddhist. One thinks of Confucius’ well-known declaration that he refused to speak of “divine things.” It is hard to imagine that the occidental preference for homing in on
“essences” is a cultural phenomenon, however so it seems when viewed from “outside the system.” This is not to say that “essences” were not elucidated by Vedic and other traditions, but even these are to be distinguished from seemingly similar occidental notions.
Moving on in this brief history of the History of Religions, Hegel took Kant’s skepticism about the mind’s ability to know “ideal” things or “things of the mind” (again, noumena) and historicized this understanding. Hegel’s view was that history was a dynamical process of the ever-unfolding self-revelation of Geist - “Mind” or “Spirit” - into
In a way reminiscent of the approach taken by the materialist Carvāka School of ancient India, Feuerbach (1804-1872) took a materialist approach to the study of religions, asserting that the only thing to study with regard to religion were material phenomena. Transcendentally metaphysical issues (e.g. the existence of angels, etc.) were to be studied
In the progression of theories about the nature of religion from Kant to Feuerbach, one can see an increasing tendency towards a materialist and rationalist stance. With Max Weber, a self-consciously sociological construal of
religion emerged. For example, one may the mention well-known Weberian thesis that holds that Calvinism as a religious phenomenon prepared the soil from which modern western capitalism sprang. Religion is an aspect of primarily social interaction.
F. C. Baur (1792-1850) had first applied Hegel’s notion of the development of Geist-in-time to Christianity, seeing Christianity as the synthesis of the two anti-theses of Greek religious philosophy and Judaism. Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) took Baur’s (and others’) pioneering work into this century. Troeltsch applied Weber’s sociological approaches to the already existent Hegelian approach.
These tools and new philological approaches were in vogue at the time (including a fascination with Sanskrit and the reconstruction of the original Indo-European language). Certain, mostly German scholars at the end of the last century paved the way for the study of religion in the west for decades to come. It is an issue among these scholars of those newly modern times on which I want to focus.
Das Unwesen des Christentums. Again, the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule emerged in opposition to old approaches taken to study Christianity that focused on the study of doctrine and scripture. For the founders of the school, reform was required. Moving away from Hegel’s view of Christianity as the “absolute religion,” the founders of the
History of Religions school relativized (or one might say, “de-absolutized”) Christianity, placing it among the world’s religions as just a “religion among religions.” Its basic insight was that by means of tracing historical developments among religious traditions one might best know their “essence” and character.
By employing the latest scientific techniques, incorporating the sciences of archaeology, anthropology, sociology, newly established linguistic approaches and so forth, these scholars focused western scientific modes of analysis on the world’s religions (beginning naturally with Christianity as its first specimen) to determine the “essences” of the various religions “scientifically.”
While we applaud the break with the old style of narrow, dogmatic study of religion, we note there was certainly not total break with Christian world-view. The founders of the History of Religions School were “with one exception...from North Germany’ with the exception of one farmer’s son and one New Testament professor’s son, all were pastor’s children.”
Basic Protestant theological notions underlie the approach of the History of Religions School. Elements of anthropocentrism, historo-centrism, essentialist thinking and a peculiarly western emphasis on a collective social understanding of religion belie the claim of the History of Religions School to be engaged in “objective”
“scientific” studies of religion. They are clearly “subjective” accounts when seen from the perspective of religions outside the traditional European and Euro-American framework, whether Native American, African, or in our case, Mahāyānist.
Von Harnack, Loisy and Troeltsch: the “essence” of Christianity. Protestant scholar of the history of Christian doctrine, Adolf von Harnack in 1898 wrote Das Wesen des Christentums (The Essence of Christianity), a pioneering work in the historical/critical approach to the study of Christianity. In this work, it was Harnack’s major thesis
that from research into the history of Christian Doctrines and biblical studies, it was possible to determine scientifically the “essential” truth of the Christian faith. The term “unwesen” of our subject heading is a negation of the term “wesen,” German for “essence.” The term was used in a work of monumental import. Adolf von Harnack used the term “Wesen” with regard to Christianity.
“…it is that disposition which the Father of Jesus Christ awakens in men’s hearts through the Gospel. It is an ‘inward’ and ‘personal’ moral conviction; what part can philosophy then have in it?” “No one knows the Son but the Father and no one knows the Father but the Son and those to whom the Son may choose to reveal him.”
In a manner both westernly scientific and Protestant at the same time, he determined that all hope of a Jewish-style “coming Kingdom” and all the Roman Catholic rituals and ecclesiastical structures were the outward “husk,” to be
discarded in favor of the essential truth given above. It is Harnack’s self-styled “non-philosophical” internal disposition of faith which comprises the Absolute truth which is the essential kernel of the religion which again, is itself, in Harnack’s conception, the vital kernel of the religions of the earth.
French Catholic scholar, Alfred Loisy rose to meet this Protestant challenge. In L’Église et l’ Évangile, Loisy declared that what Harnack claims is the discardable “husk” of the historical development of Christianity (i.e. the Jewish and Catholic elements) in fact forms the centrality if not the entirety of the continual metamorphoses of the religion as it develops ritually, theologically and politically. Harnack’s so-called “essence” is just the reflection of his own Protestant beliefs read back into history as the pure “essence” of the tradition, found in Jesus’ alleged “original, pure” teachings.
Protestant historian of religions Ernst Troeltsch, the foremost among the founders of the Religionsgeschliche Schule, had problems with the stance taken by both of the above scholars. In his response to both Harnack and Loisy, “Wie heisst ‘Wesen Christentums’?” he agrees with Loisy: Harnack “Protestantizes and modernizes the Gospel.” He agrees with Loisy’s criticism of Harnack’s Protestant presupposition that the essence is to be
Troeltsch notes that Loisy relegates Protestantism to the role of external critic of the abuses of the “main branch” of tradition - defined as the medieval Roman Catholic church - and this is where his argument militates against his own view of the organic, necessary evolution of Christianity from pre-Christian elements through the New Testament to an “essence” albeit defined loosely and as impermanent.
By placing the Protestant revolt in the role of external critic of Catholic abuses, he admits to a “falling away” from the original teaching. This is a falling away” from what? Troeltsch asks. From an essence! He concludes. To put a complex argument in a nutshell, Troeltsch concludes that the Protestant interpretation of Christian tradition is basically a
Troeltsch expands the notion of an essence of religion from Harnack’s narrow “kernel” notion that the essence of Christianity is to be found in the Gospel of Matthew quote given above. The essence should include the views of the “heretics” of the tradition, the art, the ritual, and the “pagan” philosophies of Platonism and Aristotelianism which fuel the various Christian theologies which arose.
But finally, there is an “essence” of Christianity for Troeltsch. In a manner reminiscent of Hegel’s own “evolving Geist notion, Troeltsch’s essence is a “driving ideal,” as a critical tool which is a
“…discrimination between that which corresponds to the essence and that which is contrary to it.” We must be able “to detach the inner drive of the essence from its temporary individualization conditioned by other factors.”
Yet Troeltsch is also aware that the radical historicism of the modern age has led to an “inescapable relativism” and “subjectivity” affecting all modern critical inquiries into the truth of religion, and thus, he stumbles onto a core Buddhist truth viz our topic at hand, the nature of consciousness, and objective and subjective awareness.
Modern theories concerning the “essence” of religion. We will examine below the above debate via Madhyamaka argumentation to elucidate a “middle path” to a Mahāyānist epistemological framework for understanding what the goal is for a scholar in studying religions. But first, let us fill out in a bit more detail the issues involved in this discussion by bringing our brief history of the History of Religions study in the West up to modern times.
Max Mueller (1823-1900), a German scholar of religions working at Oxford, was among the very first to thoroughly research “oriental” religions.” Though like the others discussed above, Mueller sought a scientific study of religions, he himself was comfortable with Kantian notions. And he shared with his
Protestant German colleague the idea that the studying the sources of a religion could disclose that religion. Further for Mueller, Christian notions such as the ideas of belief in God, the immortality of the soul and ideas of a final retribution were characteristics of all religions in some form.
Rudolf Otto’s notion was that all people experience an “idea of the holy.” Religion is not “contained...in any series of rational assertions.” Rather, religious reality was a sense of the numinous, the mysterium tremendum whose focus is being and
Of course, Rudolf Otto was among the first to apply Husserl’s phenomenology to the study of religion itself. Though Otto is sympathetic to “eastern” mysticism, and even speaks of śūnyatā, comparing it with western nature mysticism,
Otto was not free from cultural constraints and neither was his teacher. Listen to this proud declaration by Otto’s seminal influence, Edmund Husserl as he compares Indian philosophy with Greek, and note how his view corroborates that of Lin Yutang’s cited at the beginning:
“[[[Wikipedia:oriental|oriental]] philosophies]...are and remain mythical and practical, and it is a mistake, a falsification of their sense, for those raised in the scientific ways of thinking created in Greece and developed in the modern period, to speak of Indian and Chinese philosophy and science (astronomy, mathematics), i.e., to interpret India, Babylonia, China in a European way. Sharply distinguished from this is the
‘theoretical’ attitude, which is not practical in any sense used so far, it is the attitude of ‘thaumasein’, to which the great figures of the first culminating period of Greek philosophy, Plato and Aristotle, traced the origin of
philosophy. Man becomes gripped by the passion of a world-view and world-knowledge that turns away from all practical interests and, within the closed sphere of its cognitive activity, in the times devoted to it, strives for and achieves nothing but pure theoria [my emphases].”
While traditionally in the west some circles have maintained a sharp distinction between theory and practice, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, science and religion, in fact upon analysis, the interplay and mutual dependency among these seeming opposites is obvious, the ultimate distinctions, illusory. The religious background of the
objective “scientists” of religion of a century ago are obvious to those who read these fellows today. We are reminded of Schweitzer’s remark that German biblical scholars had peered down the dark well of time to find the historical Jesus and had seen their own reflections at the bottom of that well.
The development of these basic patterns of thought in History of Religions research continues in the work of Mircea Eliade. Eliade’s great achievement was to uncover the vast treasury of mythological patterns shared among all the world’s peoples. He applied the notion of “archetypes” developed by German psychologist C. G. Jung to the religious imagination.
To put it briefly (and hopefully avoid distortion), psychological archetypes are phenomenological structures of the mind deeply ingrained within people of all cultures, this school argues. For instance, all religions have myths of birth. The birth myths of Moses, Christ, the Buddha, Kṛṣṇa, etc. elaborate in a sense, the meaning of the individual’s own birth in cosmological and mythological terms.
There has been in recent years a growing reaction to the dominance of the “History of Religions” approach as practiced by the Chicago School and related German-style approaches. Some scholars of the so-called “Religious Studies” approach (I think rightly to some extent) take issue with the idea of religious structures of the brain guiding the development of the religions of the world.
Sam Gill, Don Wiebe, Robert Baird, among others, point out that these religious structures have not been demonstrated scientifically. Where in the brain do they reside? How can the non-theism of Buddhism be reconciled with Christian Theism? The “essentialist/intuitionalist” as Baird puts it, concerning the Eliade School, is ill-equipped to deal with the significant differences among the religions.
Baird makes the case that the generalizing theories employed by the Eliade School cannot be either falsified or verified. They are normative assertions to be accepted or rejected. They are not scientific enough. His school seeks “descriptive” studies of religion which
report on the archaeological and written evidence and resists incorporating such evidence into large metaphysical systems. His is a strictly non-normative (as he puts it) historical approach. Baird defines the study of religions somewhat in the manner of Cantwell Smith, long-time scholar at Harvard: religious studies are the study of what is ultimately important to persons and communities. Baird, almost sounding Nāgārjunan, declares that
“The possibility of sifting an ‘essence’ from the variety of material here presented is questionable.”
Don Wiebe seeks a study of religion that is free of any theological concerns. A secularized study of religion can best transcend cultural boundaries. Sam Gill has refuted earlier scholarship that posited a universal “earth mother” worship among the tribes of Native Americans. He saw only particular feminine deities in the tribal religious traditions he studies, not a universal “earth-mother.”
However the Mādhyamika scholar will want to inquire as to whether the Religious Studies thinkers have achieved the objectivity that eluded the Eliade scholars. In their struggle to oppose the positing of “identical religious structures” (to use Baird’s terminology) of the Eliade school, haven’t these
scholars gone over to the other extreme, over-stressing the differentiation among religious traditions as they descriptively study their particular manifestations? Is this not a recapitulation of the Harnack-Loisy debate in a more sophisticated form, one side emphasizing essential features, the other, the particular characteristics?
The two above methodologies (i.e. Eliade and the Baird/Gill/Wiebe approaches) are opposed to each other. Each asserts the other lacks genuine objectivity. If we might pretend for a moment to speak for them, scholars following Eliade would say the Religious Studies people lack objectivity because they ignore the fact of their own social
conditioning, and that pre-conceived notions and religious categories of thought biases are inescapable and scientifically demonstrable. Every religious tradition has, for example, some type of birth narrative as part of their religious story. Who would deny then, that at some level, these types of stories are “essential” features of every religion?
The Religious Studies people assert that they are the true scientists, detachedly analyzing the data only, not fitting it into the pre-conceived notions of a Jungianesque phenomenological paradigm. The scholar of religions, they assert, can put aside his/her conditioning and render strictly objective accounts.
While we will take issue with Baird’s complete denial of an essence - even at the level of conventional verbal discourse - we concur in doubting one can ultimately cleave to this idea. Certain scholars who we might say generally follow Eliade’s approach seem not to have
fully clarified the confusion surrounding this problem of an “essence” of religions which so perplexed Troeltsch, many decades ago. As evidence for this, we cite this from the Encyclopedia of Religion, of which Eliade was editor states this as recently as 1987: General requirements for a “more adequate classification of religions” include that
We do not want to make a blanket statement here, but there is a sense when one encounters texts from both of the above traditions an inclination to take the view that adherents of Asian traditions of scholarship on religion have been pre-scientific, lacking the scientist’s objectivity to be found in the traditions emerging from the Religionsgeschichtliche movement in Europe, not so long ago.
A Nāgārjunan critique of essentialism. The logical schools emerged in Indian Buddhism at least in part if not in the main, to defend the tradition against the arguments of other schools. Texts such as the MūlaMadhyamakakārikāḥ emerged to translate the poetic and cryptic descriptions of śūnyatā in the Prajñāpāramitā literature into a rigorous logical form which demonstrated the actuality of śūnyatā and pratītya-samutpāda in a manner which enabled the employment of these ideas in the debates with scholars of the Vedic and Jain traditions, among others.
An encounter with Madhyamaka logic offers an “outsider” the possibility for dialogue with the Mahāyāna tradition and by means of this, either demonstrate or disprove the western bias against there being a scientific objectivity in traditional Buddhist scholarship. It has always been a maxim among Indian
philosophers that through logical analysis of causal connections among conceptual systems, people from different cultures may discuss issues and perhaps demonstrate their views among those of other traditions of inquiry. Among the many schools of Buddhism, Madhyamaka logic is fairly said to be the most prone to engaging in this sort of dialogue with other schools.
As we will show below, if one can demonstrate that the four-fold negation (in the form of what is known as the “tetralemma”) is not logically valid with regard to the assertion that there neither is nor is not an “essence” for a given religion, and that, ultimately events neither arise, nor abide nor cease, then the critical historian from
these above-mentioned schools may uphold his or her notion of history of a religion as either a temporal progression continually unfolding phenomena from out of essentially existent, recurrent features, or conversely, if the results of Nāgārjunan reasoning are rejected, perhaps the Religious Studies scholars may uphold their own view of the history of a religion as the manifestation of discrete facts which have no “essential” features.
Arguments from the kārikāḥ. In outlining an understanding of religious history, one must have some theory with regard to what identifies and differentiates one religion from another. This was the motivation for seeking an essence of those scholars we discussed above. It is not an issue which can be dismissed.
We will focus on Nāgārjuna ’s arguments concerning the “svabhāva” or “self-entity” - “essence” - from his Mūlamadhyamakakārikāḥ, the Root [-stanzas] on the Middle Way, to elucidate a Mahāyānist answer to the difficulties discussed above. We will employ Nāgārjuna’s method of the so-called “tetralemma,” or four-fold negation to a modern discussion to address these issues.
The first leg of the tetralemma: negation of “essence.” To begin, Nāgārjunanotes that if one assumes that an essence or self-nature, self-entity, (svabhāva), etc., emerges by means of causes and conditions, it would be
something created. But how is this possible? If it is uncreated, it would not be contingent upon an “other.” If Harnack’s essence is not contingent to any “other entities” (e.g., Jewish eschatology, Catholic rituals, etc.) how could it even be known? It is only in connection to its manifestations as “external” forms that Harnack’s “vital kernel” could be known.
Obviously, an uncreated entity does not exist. A created thing is, according to Madhyamaka logic, something that comes into being by means of causes and conditions. If an “essence” is contingent upon those other elements, it cannot exist alone and apart as Harnack asserts. If it is independent of causes and conditions, it is uncreated and cannot exist and cannot be known. Clearly it is dependent upon causes and conditions: for one thing, his “essence” is dependent upon Jesus’ utterances as a primary cause and upon later authors having written it down as auxiliary conditions.
The second leg of the tetralemma: negation of “no-essence.” What of Loisy’s contention that there is no essential teaching of the New Testament? That it is only the manifestations we can know or study? Troeltsch’s response, in
our view suffices to demonstrate the Madhyamaka stance at this juncture. While there can be no ultimate essence along Harnack’s line, there can indeed be a verbal distinction of an essence which is true conventionally (saṃvṛtitaḥ) but not ultimately (paramārthataḥ). Ultimately, Harnack’s essence is dependent upon causes and conditions.
Conventionally or provisionally, Martin Luther could act from a standpoint whereupon faith was an essential and central standpoint to oppose abuses and a “falling away” of what were conceptualized as “essential truths,” even though this idea falls apart when carried to a logical extreme. Therefore, there is an essence based on the mere
fact of people conceiving an essence and verbally distinguishing it; in this way such views share in “conventional truth.” It is at this stage the Mādhyamika scholar avoids the charge of “nihilism.” Indeed, “essence” is negated at the level of ultimate analysis, but the fact and truth of conventionally determined essences are affirmed by the negation of “no-essence.”
The third leg of the tetralemma: negation of “there both is and is not an essence.” This is the negation of Troeltsch’s standpoint, and it is here that what is intended becomes increasingly difficult to conceptualize, for the increasing level of difficulty to conceptualize phenomena is a primary aim of the Prāsaṅgika project. Nāgārjuna’s
line of reasoning holds that two mutually incompatible states cannot co-abide within the same entity. They would conflict at their point of contact or integration. That is to say, that while Troeltsch negates Harnack’s notion of a simple essence and negates Loisy’s negation of Harnack’s essence, he incorporates both with the idea that there is an essence, but it exists in the mind of the historian and is inclusive of much more “accidental” phenomena than Harnack allowed.
On the face of it this seems quite reasonable, but this more or less Idealist picture runs into the same problem. If we posit a mental essence, how can it be “permanent,” “individual” or “fundamental” - usual attributes for the definition of “essence”? For even in the mind of the historian, the “essence” is a changing composite phenomenon created by means of causes and conditions.
For Nāgārjuna, Troeltsch’s mentalized essence is a figment of the imagination. Troeltsch more or less admits to this, but he still cleaves to the idea of an essence as a “driving ideal,” something the Mādhyamika scholar ultimately rejects - even as a mentalized phenomenon.
Fourth leg of the tetralemma: negation of “neither essence nor non-essence.” This is the most difficult aspect of Nāgārjuna’s philosophy for the occidental mind to fathom. This is the level that points directly to the wordlessness and ultimate non-existence of phenomena posited by the Mahāyāna tradition.
The third leg noted that the mutually contradictory states of “both is and is not an essence” cannot co-abide within one entity, or they would cancel each other out. The fourth leg is concerned to avoid a nihilismistic conclusion, recapitulating to a certain extent the second leg. It aims to expose a
“neutral” middle state poised between being and non-being, ultimately neither alternative. There is not a “non-essence” (because one can be conceptually and verbally elucidated at the conventional level), and because one should not conceive of “non-essence” or “niḥility” as some sort of entity either, nor is there “not a non-essence,” which is impossible to conceive. This is the point of the “emptiness of emptiness itself.”
Through this final negation, one is left at a point of conceptionlessness. Certainly, Nāgārjuna’s approach leaves one far from the standpoint of Husserl’s pure theoria, however it can hardly be said that the Madhyamaka approach
sidesteps logical analysis even as it aims to undermine the ultimate validity of any conventional discourse, even logical discourse. Logical discourse is nevertheless central to the conventional elucidation of the Madhyamaka “system of no system.”
Conventional essentialism relative to ultimate non-essentialism. In sum at the ultimate level of logical analysis, we have in the Madhyamaka tradition a complete rejection of any “essentialist” stance whatsoever. The extreme of “being” is negated as is the other extreme of “nihilism.” What is left? A system of thought which can provide for verbal distinctions, such as the elucidation of “essences” of religion, yet is self-aware as it does so, that these
essences are figments, and that they do not exist as essences even in one’s own mind. Hence I can assert both “Nāgārjuna’s thought is essential to Mahāyānist thought (conventionally)” and at the same time, “there is not ultimately any such thing as Mahāyānist thought (for ultimately, it has no essence).”
The two truths cut a path between the extremes of either existence or non-existence. One colleague critical of Madhyamaka thought, which he deems paradoxical and by its own admission, illogical, accuses Nāgārjuna of negating his
own argument, and that he therefore proves nothing. This is the point. Nāgārjuna was accused of the same thing by ancient Nyāya scholars. Nāgārjuna anticipated this charge (of negating his own stance) in his “Apology,” the Vigrāhavyāvartaṇī. Here are his words:
“You have not understood the meaning of the emptiness of entities, yet you have set out to criticize me, saying, ‘Since your statement is devoid of self-entity, the negation of the intrinsic nature of entities is not valid’.”
“Suppose that a magic man created by a magician should prevent another magic man created by his own magic [from] doing something...the magic man who is prevented is empty and the magic man who prevents is also empty. In like manner, a negation of the self-entity of all entities by my statement is possible, even though this statement [itself] is empty.”
This concludes the first part of our study. The historian of religion operating from a Madhyamaka standpoint should not seek to define a normative essence, but may conventionally assert phenomena s/he deems essential to knowing a religious tradition. This holds as long as the historian is aware that an “essence” is a verbally designated phenomenon originating from his/her own mind as imputation, and that on the ultimate level, even the given tradition
studied does not exist with its own identity in a “positivistic” sense, given the infinite inter-relationships which tie that tradition to traditions other than itself and among which it evolves. This is the logic of pratītya-samutpāda - co-originating inter-relationship the proof of which is a central aim as well of Nāgārjuna’s proofs.
In this second section, 1) we shall be presenting the problem of subject/object dualism in the study of Buddhism as exemplified in the writings of certain modern occidental scholars. That this is a problem is apparent to those who study with teachers indigenous to the tradition we are investigating. 2) We will be elucidating the views of two occidental scholars who have rendered attempts aimed at solving difficulties inherent in the assumption by many
occidental scholars of a so-called “objective” stance and 3) finally, we will aim to propose a methodology from the standpoint of the Madhyamaka philosophical tradition, inclusive of certain elements of Yogācārin insights. We will propose this both as appropriate means by which to understand Buddhism and further, any religion deemed an “other” or an “object” of study.
I come to this subject as one with a lot of frustration and a thought to resolve it. I have encountered a number of arenas where western tools used to study Buddhism were simply not comprehensive enough to fully engage the tradition. For instance, to hearken back to a statement problematic for me, let me repeat Dr. Wendy Doniger’s statement. In her book she argues
“...against the old-fashioned method of dialogue, which I satirize as “Take a Buddhist to Dinner.” One [question] is, which Buddhist are you going to get? Maybe you get a stupid Buddhist, or maybe you get a Buddhist from one school which is very atypical. There are a lot of reasons why any common or garden-variety Buddhist is not the Buddhist you want, and also why the Dalai Lama is not the one you want either because he’s not a typical Tibetan Buddhist. So which Buddhist are you going to take to dinner?”
To speak frankly, and giving due regard to her achievements, the above quote by one of America’s most celebrated Indologists stands out to those who study with Asian scholars of Buddhism as frankly - absurd. Basically, if we
should not study with “garden-variety” Buddhists nor “stupid” Buddhists nor even brilliant Buddhists (i.e. the Dalai Lama), maybe the implication of her statements is to say that study with no Buddhists is the most appropriate means by which to engage in Buddhist studies.
While somewhat outrageous to anyone from a Buddhist culture, this view is prevalent among certain scholars engaging in the western academic study of religion. If we reversed the idea and placed it in our cultural context, and one imagines a Chinese student asking, “Which place in the world is the best
to study the New Testament?” according to Professor Doniger, the Pope would not be the best, for he is not typical. Engaging church-goers (say, anthropologically) in the meaning of the New Testament for them is not of value, for they are typical, but might be “stupid.” Studying the New Testament at Tubingen would not be wise, for it too is “very atypical.”
Her point that religious study should be undertaken in a manner as “scientific” and “objective” as possible is well-taken. Conventionally, this works. A scholar of religion should might be well-advised not to engage in a mindless, polemical apologetic for his/her tradition. Ultimately, however there is no pure, removed, utterly objective standpoint. One may seek at most a standpoint which is relatively objective; an utterly objective standpoint is a “view from nowhere.”
Gananath Obeyesekere, while a native Sinhalese, employs an occidental paradigm. He conceptualizes Buddhism as an “other” in his discussion of hair in Medusa’s Hair. He describes in a Neo-Freudian way, how the shaven heads of Buddhist monks unconsciously represent “castration or the loss of the penis,” while the ascetics’ matted hair symbolizes the emergence through the head of a “sub-lated penis.”
While there is no inherent problem in employing what we might call the “sex-o-centric” conceptual apparatus of Freudian psychology, for we acknowledge the two hair styles could be interpreted that way and his discussion contributes to the general discussion in a provocative way, we feel that besides demonstrating a lack of respect for those in the tradition who would be offended by such a description (as they would the impudence of assuming one knows
the unconscious motivations of the Buddha who is said to have instigated these rules), that it would have been more comprehensive a discussion of the issues involved for Obeyesekere to have informed readers of the native interpretation of their shaven heads. Perhaps then we would have a more complete understanding of the practice. To balance one’s own hermeneutical approach with an investigation of the native self-interpretation seems to me to be the more relatively “objective” approach.
A more subtle example of the imposition of one’s own self and culture on another occurs in the work of Paul Griffiths. In his book, On Being Mindless, he states that the Yogācāra philosophical system is “strictly idealist” though he acknowledges it is devoid of a substantialist or essentialist basis in its thinking. To use a culturally loaded term like “Idealist” with regard to an Asian system is once again to impute one’s own categories onto another system without regard to how proponents of the tradition itself would respond.
How can Yogācāra thought be termed “Idealist” when it identifies the “ātmadṛṣṭi” - the “self-view” or “ego-centric standpoint” as an affliction to be resolved, or better, dissolved into the higher standpoint of the absence of the real existence of apprehender and apprehended? Hence the notion, Yogācāra, Mind-only and Vijñāptimātra, cognition-only should not be simply conflated with Berkeleyian or any other western idealism.
The Yogācārin notion of the other-dependent (paratantra) can ultimately be known. Is it then to be equated with Kant’s noumenal realm? Where is anything like śūnyatā to be found among Western Idealist systems? With so many differences, is it accurate to call Yogācāra thought “Idealism”? And if so, might we not just as accurately call Kantian or Hegelian thought examples of Western Yogācāra? The Western proponents of these traditions would, methinks, protest too much.
Occidental Sympathizers: van der Leeuw and Bourdieu. Gerardus van der Leeuw is widely known for his stress on the importance of the inter-play found in what he calls the “object and subject in this reciprocal operation.” He discusses the “reality” of dream consciousness, a state wherein “the supporting pillar of conscious experience, while
we are awake, the tension between subject and object disappears....” In his discussion of the reality of dream consciousness, and his citing cases among certain tribespeople where dreams are regarded as more real than waking consciousness, van der Leeuw dissolves the hard boundary between subject and object so cherished by classical historians of religion and by many of their successors today.
As Rogers Brubaker sums up Bourdieu’s thought, he notes that,
“Every sociological practice, theoretical or empirical, rests on an implicit or explicit metatheory - a general conceptual framework for the understanding of human social life. Metatheory matters: it is consequential for substantive work, determining (in part) the kind of problems that are posed, the kinds of explanations that are offered, and the kinds of techniques of empirical study that are employed.”
“Objectivism explains social life in terms of mind-independent existence; subjectivism, by contrast, appeals to mind-dependent and agent-dependent elements such as the conceptions and beliefs of individuals. Neither of these one-sided modes of thought can comprehend the intrinsically double nature of social reality.
Subjectivism ignores the external constraints placed on agents by thing-like social facts and the social formation of every ‘subject’ but objectivism ignores the ‘objectivity of the subjective’ and the ‘reality of the representation’, because it does not recognize that the experience individuals have in and of social reality and the conceptions they form about it are partly constitutive of that reality.
Only a theory based on a conceptualization of the relation between material and symbolic properties, and between external, constraining social facts and experiencing, apprehending acting individuals, can be adequate for the human sciences.”
While we do not want to make the same mistake we accused Griffiths of making, and overlay our own prejudices onto another system and equating the two systems - i.e., in our case, to say Cittamātrin metatheory and Bourdieusian metatheory are basically the same, our goal in this section of our paper is to point out that the two share in common an insistence that one deny the ultimate existence of grasper and grasped, (grāhya, grāhaka), subject and object. Madhyamaka and Yogācāra thought merit consideration on their own terms as their reflection could be applied to constructing a metatheory of religions study based on their thought.
Proposal of a Mahāyānist Metatheory. Keiji Nishitani is one of Heidegger’s least-acknowledged students, but among Heidegger’s many students who were Christian or raised Christian, Nishitani was his only Buddhist pupil. East Asian Buddhism is very heavily dependent on Yogācāra thought, more so than the Central Asian traditions which incline more
towards a Madhyamaka standpoint, generally speaking. Nishitani in some sense then, could be viewed as among the first Cittamātrin scholars of religion in the west, since certainly he was a western thinker in at least as many ways as Obeyesekere, having incorporated a Neo-Heideggerian paradigm as opposed to a Neo-Freudian model.
“Plato, it will be recalled, likened our ordinary relationship to things to being tied up inside a cave, watching the shadows passing to and fro across its walls, and calling those shadows ‘reality.’ To look at things from the standpoint of the self is always to see things merely as objects, that is, to look at things without from a field
within the self. It means assuming a position vis-a-vis things from which self and things remain fundamentally separated from one another. This standpoint of separation of subject and object, or opposition between within and without is what we call the field of consciousness.”
“On the field of consciousness where they are ordinarily taken for real, however, they are not present in their true reality but only in the form of representations. So long as the field of separation between within and without is not broken through, and so long as a conversion from that standpoint does not take place, the lack of unity and contradiction spoken of earlier cannot help but prevail among the things we take as real. This sort of contradiction shows up, for example, in the opposition between materialism and idealism....”
Yogācārin insights into the relationship of religious praxis to non-essentialism: The three natures and their implications for the relationship of theory to practice in the Mahāyāna tradition and for religious studies in general.
Central to the Yogācāra system is the notion of the “three natures” (Sk. trisvabhāva). These three natures, along with some other basic features of Cittamātrin thought will serve as an outline for a metatheory of understanding the reality of religions deemed an “other” to oneself.
The field of consciousness wherein subject and object dualism operate mentioned above by Nishitani designates the first of the three natures and is called “conceptualized nature.” All consciousnesses naively operate at this level, according to Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, (founders of the Yogācāra school) et. al. from the standpoint of the “ātmadṛṣṭi” or “self-view” or better translated for our purposes here as the “subject [-centered]-theory.”
This conceptualized nature takes as inherently existing the bifurcation of subject and object. One assumes that forms, etc., are external to one’s own mind, and all sorts of mental states arise from that basic “subject-theory,” among them being aversion, jealousy, prejudice and bigotry, etc..
From the Cittamātrin standpoint, analysis coming from out of a naive thought that subject and object exist alone and apart from each other and that one’s own theorizing about, in our case, the reality of a religion deemed an “other”
constitutes that “other” religion is mistaken. This first of the three natures aims to elucidate the view that our false imputation of inherent existence to the subject or to excessively emphasize the inherent existence of the
object - are extremes which miss the Middle view which is that, for the Cittamātrins, the subject (grāhaka) and object (grāhya) exist as only from the level of immediate, un-reflected-upon consciousness and do not exist ultimately separate upon the further analysis at the second of the three natures, the “paratantrasvabhāva” or as we translate this, the (literally) “other-dependent” nature.
This second aspect of analysis aims at revealing the fact that only “enmeshed with” or “interwoven-with” what is conceptualized as an “other” can that which is conceptualized as “self” exist. The external forms the internal, yet
the internal construes and configures the external. Therefore it is said that through the mistaken impression of there being a dual reality of subject and object, this misconception is nevertheless actual in spite of its being a misconception.
The mistaken consciousness is really apprehending something in its false imputation of a bifurcation - the bifurcation itself is illusory and falls away at the second level of reflection - the other-dependent - wherein one realizes that one’s own perceptions are built upon that which is “other” than itself for all its assumptions and world-view-making abilities.
Religious studies taken on from within this standpoint would acknowledge readily that, in our case, our own summing up of Indian religious reality is going to be fundamentally constructed on the basis of our own prejudices and from
factors of our own environment growing up as Protestants, Catholics or Jews, etc. in America, but that India’s religious reality, as we meet with it, configures our own internal mental matrix as it were, whether or not we reject or accept features of Indian religious world-view as our own.
In short, the two - the student of Indian religion and Indian religion itself - mutually create each other. Far from rendering our judgments void - our analyses are more valuable when taken in their context - i.e. as Native American, African-American construal of Indian religion, or in my case, a Scots-Irish-German liberal Protestant Midwestern construal of Buddhism.
Only a “full disclosure” of one’s own biases and only a full disclosure of the “other” tradition’s internal view of its own reality, can further the cause of achieving increasingly comprehensive modes of analyzing Indian religious systems, or for that matter, any religious system deemed an “other” to one’s own.
The “perfected” or “thoroughly established” nature (pariniṣpannasvabhāva) - is the state of having realized fully in practice the illusory nature of subject-object dualism. In Cittamātrin theory, this is the state of perfected realization. The implication of Mahāyānist insight here is that one must go beyond mere theory and embody one’s
theory in practice if one seeks a complete awareness of given subject matter. I have been more informed about Judaism and Islam by engaging in certain practices of those traditions, though I never accepted for myself the ideological standpoint of those traditions.
If one is to understand an “other” religion as comprehensively as possible, one really should engage in the practice to the extent one is able and is permitted to do so, to deepen one’s awareness of that tradition. This notion fits in with another Bourdieusian notion:
And so we have it. Nāgārjunan epistemology elucidates the fact of there being ultimately no separation between entities on the ultimate level. There is ultimately no essence apart from its manifestations; this is in
correspondence with his examination of many commonly experienced phenomena, e.g. his examination of the creator’s relationship to its creation, the lack of ultimate distinction between the temporal states of origination, abiding and cessation, and so forth.
The Cittamātrins extended, in their view, the epistemological implications of Madhyamaka insight into their notion of the three natures which are explicitly inclusive of praxis, denoting the problem (the conceptualized nature), the theoretical means to solve it (awareness of the other-dependent nature) and the combination of theory and practice which perfects the system (the thoroughly established or perfected nature).
I feel that a religious study can proceed along the above grounds. Perhaps there might be something of value for scholars of religion coming from other traditions. Certainly this relationship is reciprocal: Mahāyānist scholars in this country will be greatly benefitted by incorporating where relevant the insights of sociology, history,
anthropology, and, specific to religious studies, the insights proffered by Eliade scholars into the commonalities of religious experience and the insights of Baird, (et. al.) scholars into being sensitive to differences among the traditions and concerned to document “just the facts” at least, as in the case of this study, before evaluative judgments are made.
Of course, one employing a Mahāyānist hermeneutic will use these methodologies on a conventional level, but on an ultimate level will of course conclude that the various traditions of the world are neither the same, nor different, nor both, nor neither - and finally, to realize that even this scheme is “mere verbal convention.”
The application of these to our study. As should be apparent from the foregoing, we shall be elucidating essential elements of the Yoga-praxis School which distinguish it from the two other primary Buddhist schools, the Madhyamaka and the two major Śrāvakayāna Schools, the Sautrāntika and Vaibhāṣika. However, these will be the essential elements
as seen from the perspective of a Madhyamaka writer. Since such is the case, one may only say that we will be describing the “essential” elements of Yoga-praxis doctrine, as Troeltsch would say, as they exist “in the mind of the historian summarizing the material,” who in this case is lCang skya II and those scholars he chooses to quote.
In keeping with what we said above, a more thorough investigation would entail examining the ideas of those who consider themselves Yoga-praxis adherents with regard to defining the “essence” of their school. It is in the exchange of views of the critical outsider and the “believing” insider that one may find whatsoever essence that may exist - conventionally speaking, of course.
Again, in the twentieth century, to say “Yoga-praxis School doctrine” is quite a different thing than it was in lCang skya’s day. To him, Sanskrit materials were inaccessible, as were many other texts. He had available to him sufficient Tibetan texts to make his comments authoritative and well worthy
of consideration, but when one realizes that he is writing about texts fifteen hundred years prior to his age and before the two schools had fully solidified, so to speak, then one sees that his “essence” or “essential themes” are certainly subjective along with being authoritative. This essence or any other of course, is not ultimately
existent, yet this idea does not render our study meaningless. Precisely because Yoga-praxis thought is seen from many diverse angles is lCang skya’s contribution very meaningful as an admixture into the cauldron of roiling interpretations of Yoga praxis doctrine.
Chapter Two: Introduction: Yogācāra - Madhyamaka disputes from Nāgārjuna to Rol pa’i rdo rje lCang skya II.
These two systems are perfectly in accordance with the noble doctrine. Can we then say which of the two is right? Both equally conform to truth and lead us to Nirvāṇa. Nor can we find out which is true or false? Both aim at the destruction of passion (kleśa) and the salvation of all beings. We must not, in trying to settle the comparative merits of these two, create great confusion and fall further into perplexity. For, if we act conformably with any of these doctrines, we are enabled to attain the Other Shore (Nirvāṇa), and if we turn away from them, we remain drowned, as it were, in the ocean of transmigration. The two systems are, in like manner, taught in India, for in essential points they do not differ from each other.-
Commencement of the disputes. There can be no doubt that by the time of I-tsing at the latest, Mahāyāna was fragmented into two specific schools: The Madhyamaka and the Yogācāra. It will be one major aim of this study to investigate the origins of this cleavage. We will be examining Tibetan claims of a very early date and we will be examining the severity of the disagreements.
Certain works tend to highly under-exaggerate the discrepancies, while other, especially early occidental works, and tend to over-exaggerate the differences between Madhyamaka and Yogācāra systems, often in the framework of “nihilism” versus “Idealism,” respectively.
Having reflected on this issue for some years, and while by no means having at all fully resolved it, it is our contention that truth lies in both the under- and over- exaggerated positions mentioned above - and yet, neither. We will be demonstrating both the perspectives shared by the two schools, especially relative to the Śrāvakayāna Schools. By implication more than explicitly, we will unveil the common ground of all these Buddhist schools share relative to non-Buddhist schools.
The multivalent aspects of this study. As evinced from the title of this study, we will be primarily concerned with the “Great Debate” engaged by the two schools over the course of some centuries, as recorded in the work of lCang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje (whose biography we will relate below). In chapters three, four and five, the heart of this work, is the translation and sub-commentary of lCang skya II’s opus magnum, A Beautiful Ornament for Mt. Meru of the Adept [[[Buddha’s]]] Teaching, a Clear Exposition Presenting the Limits of Proofs.
There are four textual layers employed in this study. Doubly indented are textual citations lCang skya himself employs to make his arguments. The translation of his own work immediately surrounds those citations of earlier works he cites.
Below the translation is a sub-commentary that is an elaboration of obscure points in his work. This sub-commentary in a descriptive manner sets out the meaning of the text from the standpoint of authoritative Gelukpa interpretation from two years’ work on it with Geshe Lhundhup Sopa.
A translator can only hope to eliminate obscurity in his/her translation to as great an extent possible. To help ensure clarity we have included this extensive sub-commentary partly as a control, for sometimes we are merely repeating the translation to affirm that what it states need be interpreted no
further. At other times we have included additional information without which the text, abbreviated as it often is, would be incomprehensible. Without the insights of Geshe Sopa’s tradition of scholarship to help flesh out the meaning of the root text, I would have been stymied in my efforts to translate at all accurately or fully.
Finally, the footnotes in this study contain not only additional information from secondary sources and other primary sources. It is in this format that we have presented views of certain modern scholars relevant to this study. These may be the insights of others that may conflict with the primary text of this study.
The two schools: essentially identical or essentially different? It is a pan-Mahāyānist philosophical standpoint to reject notions of “self-identity.” To say, for example, the two Mahāyāna Schools are identical would be to violate one of their own basic principles in defining them. In Nāgārjunan analysis, something strictly identical to another thing could not be ipso facto, differentiated at all, in thought, name or experiential reality.
To assert the identity of or even to say that they are “virtually” identical is to negate another vital aspect of Mahāyāna and all Buddhist doctrine, the doctrine of upāya: the “approach” or “method” a Buddha or any teacher employs
to gradually train disciples. The manifold variety of approaches are all part of Buddha’s enticements into the dharma, all valid to varying degrees and intended for sentient beings who are also manifold and variegated. The final aim of the Buddha’s teaching is nirvāṇa itself, and this is inconceivable. All the schools are hence “interpretable” and “provisional.”
The nature of consciousness: the pivot around which the great debates unfold. The nature of consciousness is the primary subject of the great issues which distinguish a Madhyamaka stance from that of a Yogācārin. Does the Yogācārin possess an outlook that is svacitta - “mind-in-itself?” This is what [pseudo?] Nāgārjuna claims.
Is this school “Idealist?” The Yogacārin position hinges on its discusion of the self-awareness (rang rig), which is the subject of chapter four. Is this notion of a “self-aware” consciousness constitutive of some type of idealism? We offer arguments in our chapter on methodology as to why this occidental term is inaccurate. As we shall see, perhaps “Consciousnessism,” (Vijñānavāda), “Mentalism” or “Mentationism” (Yogācāra), or “Cognitionism”
(Vijñāptimātravāda) are more accurate, though some will contend that we are quibbling. The implications of the two schools’ contentions over the greater or lesser importance accorded mentation in the role of attaining liberation is central to this study. Connected with that is the relative emphasis on either theory or practice.
There exist major difficulties viewing either of the two schools strictly objectively. One always has an initial reference point. In the case of Gadjin Nagao, that reference point was that of the Yogācāra School. He admits that his study of that school was heavily influenced by his prior knowledge of Yoga-praxis positions.
No scholar of any tradition, to our knowledge, maintains that the two schools are either exactly the same or that they are utterly to be differentiated. Relatively speaking, assertions of the gulf cleaving the two schools however, diverge widely.
There are definitive and interpretable doctrines. The Buddhist schools never in theory simply condemn the doctrines of other schools, however, they do rank them according to relative depth of insight, etc. In the case of these disputes, each claims the other’s doctrine “needs further elucidation” to hit the mark of the Buddha’s intention.
David Seyfort Ruegg, standing outside a particular Buddhist tradition, terms the disputes as between a positive or mystical current (cataphatic) and a negative theory (apophatic) theory concerning these issues. The notion that some texts and ideas are “interpretable,” having a different intention (abhiprāya) than the apparent meaning, rather than “definitive” meaning must be used with care. He states,
“...so powerful a hermeneutical instrument as the idea of an intentionally motivated ‘surface’ teaching of provisional or non-definitive meaning requiring interpretation in a sense other than the obvious surface one, and opposed to a ‘deep’ teaching of final and definitive meaning, had to be handled with care and restraint - and no doubt also as sparingly as possible - in order not to be tainted with arbitrariness and disregard for a canonical corpus.”
Finally, as Geshe Lhundhup Sopa has put it, all of the schools whose doctrines are included among the three cycles (which we will discuss below) have arguments as to the reasons and methods by which they avoid falling into the classical chasm of either nihilism or substantialism, anniḥiliationism or “permanence” thinking.
The Mahāyānasaṃgrāha: Counteracting the extremes of positivism and repudiation. We have consulted Etienne Lamotte’s work to help “enflesh” our understanding of certain issues as evinced in the Saṃgrāha. The Sanskrit originals of these three works have been lost, leaving readers to rely on the Chinese and Tibetan translations. The Mahāyāna Saṃgrāha and the Bodhisattvabhūmi are the two most often quoted textual sources for lCang skya.
Three cycles of doctrine: the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra. This issue of the Three Cycles of the Wheel of Dharma (dharmacakrapravartaṇa) defines the entirety of Buddhist doctrines - from the Mahāyāna perspective. This
systematization of Buddhist schools is famously elucidated in the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra. The Sanskrit edition was lost most likely already by the thirteenth century. Numerous Tibetan (at least ten) and Chinese editions (at least three) exist, attesting to this sūtra’s widespread influence and authority.
“If [one asks] ‘[Why] is it a “wheel”?’ it is because it is a wheel of all the teachings of complete realization and scriptural teachings for the purpose of cutting off unharmonious [[[elements]]] in the mental continuum of the disciple by the Bhāgavan. It is like the precious wheel of the cakravartin kings that travelled gradually from one region to another, conquering unharmonious elements through its power. Therefore, the [[[Buddhadharma]]] is similar to that wheel, since it conquers unharmonious elements such as attachment, etc., travelling gradually to the mental continua of disciples.”
Definitive versus provisional doctrines. The first cycle of doctrine: the Śrāvakayāna. Needless to say, representatives of what the Mahāyāna Schools term the so-called Hīnayāna (“Lesser” or even “Inferior” Vehicle) do not accept this elucidation of the Buddha’s teaching in the form of “three cycles of the wheel of Dharma.” The only remaining school among the eighteen original schools included under this designation “Hīnayāna” are the various Theravāda traditions found in Wri Lavka and most of Southeast Asia. They accept only the teachings of the Buddha as found in the three baskets of the Pali canon as authoritative and view what they deem later Mahāyāna developments as imaginative fictions. On the other hand, certain scholars find śūnyatā and numerous other doctrines in the Pali canon itself.
Scholars of Mahāyāna traditions have viewed the Hīnayāna as a teaching for śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. These aspirants to Buddhist awakening have a self-serving agenda. They pursue only their own awakening to the selflessness of the individual among the skandhas, without regard to the suffering of fellow sentient beings. This system of the three cycles involves elements controversial to all forms of Buddhism.
The section of the sūtra elucidating the three turnings of the wheel (tricakra, khor lo gsum) appears in chapter seven, the questions of Bodhisattva Paramārthasamudgata to the Buddha. Paramārthasamudgata begins his inquiry of the Buddha by noting,
“Bhāgavan, when I was in seclusion there arose this thought: ‘The Bhāgavan has spoken in many ways of the own-character of the aggregates and further spoken of their character of production, their character of disintegration, and their abandonment and realization. Just as he has spoken of the aggregates, he has also spoken of the sense spheres….[etc.]’”
Paramārthasamudgata continue, listing features of sentient consciousness the Buddha taught as having their “own characteristics” (svalaksana, rang gi mtshan nyid). Continuing, he refers to the Buddha’s teaching concerning the “own-characteristics” of the Buddhist Noble Eight-fold Path etc.
Interpretable nature of the first cycle. Here is a reference to what the sūtra exposes as the first turning of the Cycle of Dharma. All Mahāyāna traditions view doctrines contained within this wheel as “provisional” or
“interpretable” - “requiring further elucidation” (neyartha). The reason for this is the realism concerning dharma theory found in the Abhidhammapiṭaka. In the Abhidharmakoṣa, a commentary on and compendium of theories from the piṭaka, dharmas (phenomena) are said to be the fundamental constituents of time/space reality.
A selection from the Abhidharmakosabhāṣyam by Vasubandhu depicting a dispute between two now non-existent so-called (by the Mahāyāna) “Hīnayāna” or “inferior” schools, the Vaibhāṣikas and Sautrāntika (with the former we can class the modern Theravāda tradition), illustrates the “realism” of dharma theory which served as one of many targets for the criticism of later Mahāyāna thinkers.
“[The Vaibhāṣikas say: the Sūtra teaches that] all rūpa...is, individually, called skandha...thus each ‘real’ (atomic) element of past rūpa...present...and future...receives the name of skandha. Thus the skandhas have real existence and not merely nominal existence.
[The Sautrāntika:] If this is the case, then the material āyatanas...have only a nominal existence, for the quality of being a ‘gate of arising of the mind...’ does not belong to atoms taken one by one, which are solely real, but to collections of atoms which constitute an organ of sight, a visible object, etc.”
Though both schools may disagree about the true reality or nominally reality of composite phenomena, both adhere to the teaching that dharmas (“atoms” in the translation) are the fundamental time/space constituents of reality. The view was demolished later by Vasubandhu by means of his critique of this “atom/dharma” theory.
Nirvāṇa as ‘unconditioned’ phenomenon. Further, nirvāṇa in the conception of the Hīnayāna School, was asserted to be an unconditioned state, an assertion rejected by Nāgārjuna in his Mūlamadhyamakakārikāḥ in chapter 25 (the “nirvāṇapārīksā”). This notion of nirvana as “unconditioned” (asaṃskṛta) was rejected as violating the notion of pratītyasamutpāda; nirvāṇa and saṃsāra are co-arising and mutually interdependent, according to Madhyamaka view.
Entical nature of First Cycle doctrines. Therefore, the Buddha promulgated this Turning of the Wheel for Śrāvaka disciples who adhered to “entical” or “essentialist” thinking, unprepared for the deeper truths of the Buddhadharma concerned with śūnyatā. In the seventh chapter, the Buddha explains to Paramārthasamudgata the reason for not explaining the lack of self-nature (“own being” in the translation) to certain types of beings:
“Paramārthasamudgata, I do not designate the three types of lack of own being because sentient beings in the realm of sentient beings...because of being bound to conventional designations or due to predispositions toward conventional designations, they strongly adhere to the character of the own-being of the imputational as the own-being of the other-dependent and the thoroughly established.”
He elucidates the view that sentient beings experience the world as having “inherent existence” or “self-nature” (svabhāva). They attach true existence to that which is merely conceptualized (parikalpita) and perceive “entities”
where there are none. This is the “conceptualization” or “imagination” of the “unreal” (abhutaparikalpa). They equate this level of comprehension with the deeper “own being” or “self-entity” of the interwoven-with-other. To teach the lack of self-nature (niḥsvabhāva) to such sentient beings would be to generate within them further afflictions for which they are unprepared to cope.
The Second Cyle of doctrine: Madhyamaka. The Second Turning of the Wheel refers to the rise of systems of thought associated with the Prajñāpāramitā literature. Within this corpus, ideas appear which seem to contradict teachings in the corpus of literature associated with the first Turning. Among the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, we read that the paths to awakening do not arise, that nirvāṇa, rather than being an unconditioned realm is directly accessible, and in fact, all phenomena are “quiescent from the beginning.”
Nihilism in the Second Cycle? The doctrine of śūnyatā is that which stands as the foremost teaching among these systems of thought. This doctrine seems like “nihilism” to both Hīnayāna Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. To
Mahāyānist proponents of Madhyamaka doctrines, this is an extension of the Buddha’s teaching of anattā - the lack of an individual self among the skandhas - to the lack of selfhood for all phenomena (sarvadharmanairātmya) as well. The Buddha responds to Paramārtha’s confusion as to why he would teach such doctrines that seem so to contradict his earlier teachings. The Buddha replies as follows:
“Paramārthasamudgata, I initially teach doctrines starting with the lack of own-being in terms of production to those beings who have not generated roots of virtue, who have not purified obstructions, who have not ripened their
continuums.... They know [[[phenomena]]] as being impermanent...unstable, unworthy of confidence...whereupon they develope aversion and antipathy toward all compounded phenomena...their understanding is not infused with conventional designations.”
The Second Cycle: for the prideful who ‘lack roots of virtue. Therefore, while it is said that sentient beings who were unripe to receive teaching concerning śūnyatā. These disciples of the Second Turning are said to be those who lack “roots of virtue” etc. and develop an understanding of language and sense-perception as “conventional
designation only” (Saṃvṛtimātra). Their basis of understanding of reality needs to be demolished, and these doctrines are useful for reducing the pride of those too prone to adhere to the obstructions of entical views. The doctrines associated with the Second Wheel, as that of the First Wheel, are said to be “interpretable,” “needing elucidation” (neyārtha), as the Buddha states in the following:
“With respect to this well-taught doctrine, degrees of conviction appear among sentient beings. Paramārthasamudgata, thinking of just these three types of lack of own-being, through the teachings that are Sūtras of interpretable meaning, the Tathāgata taught such doctrines as: “All phenomena lack own-being; all phenomena are unproduced, unceasing, quiescent from the start, and naturally in a state of nirvana.”
“[[[Disciples]]] believe in the doctrine, they strongly adhere just to the literal meaning of the doctrine, [[[thinking]]], ‘All phenomena just lack own-being; all phenomena are just unproduced, just unceasing, just quiescent from the start,
Two wrong attitudes with regard to the Second Cycle doctrines. The Buddha in these passages also chides those who reject this doctrine as a doctrine taught not by the Buddha, but by Māra. So there are two wrong attitudes to Second Wheel doctrines: 1] to accept them, but in a nihilismistic manner, and 2] to reject them as not taught by the Buddha and view as enemies those who propound these views.
Initially, in the Varanāsi area, in the Deer Park...the Bhāgavan taught the aspects of the four truths of the Āryas for those who were genuinely engaged in the Śrāvaka vehicle. The wheel of doctrine you turned at first is wondrous...however, this wheel of doctrine that the Bhāgavan turned is surpassable, provides an opportunity [for refutation], is of interpretable meaning, and serves as a basis for dispute.
Then the Bhāgavan turned a second wheel of doctrine which is more wondrous still for those who are genuinely engaged in the Great Vehicle, because of the aspect of teaching emptiness...however this wheel of doctrine...is surpassable....[etc.]”
So the third wheel, from the standpoint of the Yogācāra School, is definitive (nitārtha) because it distinguishes the boundary between the first and second wheels, encapsulating all their doctrines. How is this done?
The whole of Buddhist teaching is encapsulated by the doctrine of the three natures. From the Yogācāra standpoint, the whole of Buddhist teaching is reinterpreted by means of the three natures (trisvabhāva) theory. They take the notion of “non-self-nature” (niḥsvabhāva) elaborated in Nāgārjuna’s works (foremost among them, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikāḥs) and apply it in a three-fold way.
The first of the three natures: conceptualization. The first of these three natures is the “conceptualized nature” (parikalpitasvabhāva). It involves the imputation of conceptual constructs creating “enticalized” objects. In fact,
they do not exist of their own accord or concretely. This is the “conceptualization or imagination of the unreal.’ This is the Yogācāra evolution of the saṃvṛtisatya notion of the schools of the Second Turning (i.e. the various Madhyamaka Schools).
The second of the three natures: the other-dependent. The coining of the term paratantra was its expression of Nāgārjunan śūnyatā, expressing the idea elucidated logically by Nāgārjuna that entities exist only as “mutually dependent” (parasparāpekṣā), not as independent entities. “Interwoven-with-other” sums up the notion of niḥsvabhāva, in their view, because the implication of this notions is that no “entity” is self-existent though they are falsely imputed as being so; in reality, they are radically interwoven with what is mentated as “other” to itself. Hence they subsume the idea of the selflessness of the individual and phenomena (ātmadhrmanairātmya) under this notion.
The third of the three natures: the “perfected.” The Yogācāra assert their definitiveness as Mahāyāna teaching further by the term “pariniṣpannasvabhāva.” The term implies perfection of practice - the actualization of the
awareness of paratantra through practice in meditation. Further it has been said that the Yogācāra School is a continuation of the Abhidhamma period having gone through the filter of Mahāyāna logic, etc. and by means of this, a “de-enticalization” of the Abhidhamma system occurred.
Yogācāra: school of definitive interpretation. They are a school of definitive interpretation, it is said, because they incorporate the Abhidhamma. If we accept the story as given by the tradition, the same Vasubandhu began his career as the great scholar of the Abhidharmakosa fame, who converted to the Mahāyāna upon learning of his half brother’s doctrine brought back from the Tuṣitā realm. If this is true pre-Mahāyāna Abhidhamma thought is directly
connected with Yogācāra thought in the works of one of its central thinkers. One Vasubandhu. Frauwallner’s arguments to the contrary, it is not at all philosophically improbable that the author of the Koṣa is one and the same person as who wrote the Triṃsika, et. al.. Differences in style can be accounted for by the fact that different issues rose to concern. Specifically, how does one integrate the three-nature theory and the compelling standpoint of śūnyatā with abhidhamma categories? How does one then account for different meditative states and the various levels of consciousness realized through them?
Yogācāra critique of Madhyamaka. Rebirth: without the ālaya consciousness, how does one account for that psychic reality which is reborn? Vasubandhu’s thought enabled the new Mahāyānist synthesis of classical doctrines such as the twelve-fold chain of causation (dvādaṣaṅgapratītyasamutpāda). Further, from the Yogācāra standpoint, the
Madhyamaka system is explanatorily weak. It illuminates the distinction between the conventional and ultimate relative to śūnyatā, but cannot incorpate all the teachings of the Buddha as the sūtra states. Finally, the śūnya doctrine is positively dangerous for those mental continuum is immature and for whom it would be “poisonous.’
Mādhyamika response to Yogācāra critique. The Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka can agree that the Madhyamaka doctrine is not for all trainees in the Mahāyāna system. Employing a type of “snob appeal,” They can indicate that Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka can indeed lead to a nihilismistic view for some mental continua (see Tsong kha pa’s view just below). Therefore, they may assent to the notion that the Yogācāra elucidates an “extensive method” and venerate Asavga whom
they see as of the lineage of Maitreya as on a par with Nāgārjuna, of the lineage of Mañjuwri. However, in their view, Asavga held as his ultimate view, the standpoint of Mādhyamika śūnyatā The third cycle is taught to forestall falling into the ‘Great Nihilism.’ Tsong kha pa himself states:
“Finally, [in the third wheel], the statements of the lack of intrinsic identifiability of the first nature and of the intrinsically identifiable existence of the latter two natures [are interpretable in meaning]. [They are] taught
for those [[[disciples]]] of the Mahāyāna who would find no ground to establish cause-effect...in the intrinsic realitylessness that is emptiness with respect to intrinsically identifiable status, in order to forestall their falling into the great nihilism ....”
The Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra as definitive Madhyamaka text. Some Mādhyamika have held that the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra is a definitive text because it basically assents to the notion that the Second Turning is definitive, though too hard to comprehend for the trainee of less than superb faculties. In the end, even all holders of Vijñānavāda lineage will come to the profound view (of śūnyatā) in the end, when their mental continua are matured.
Here, our investigation requires some preferatory remarks. At times in past and present one finds sometimes a tendency to draw rather simple comparisons among schools. It has been and is in many circles still common to refer to the Yogācāra School as a form of “Idealism” because of its emphasis on the doctrine of “cognition-only” Vijñāpti- or vijñānamātra.
Variously called “Mind-only” (Yogācāra), “consciousness-only” (vijñānamātra) and more generically perhaps, the “Yoga-praxis” (Yogācāra) school, this philosophical system has received diverse treātment at the hands of occidental scholars struggling to find footholds of meaning in the craggy edifice of its centuries-long development textually.
Complicating matters further is the fact that one’s definition of the school’s doctrines will depend greatly upon whether one is employing Central or East Asian sources for one’s interpretation. In the hands of Gelukpa Prāsaṅgika Mādhyamika scholars of Tibet and Mongolia, the Yogācāra seems more greatly to resemble occidental “Idealisms” (of necessity generally defined). The interpretation differs from the interpretations one is likely to find among the investigation of the original Indian Yogācāra systems to be found among Japanese scholars of the twentieth century.
Texts and authors. Nāgārjuna’s Bodhicittavivāraṇa. In this work we have an early and biting critique of Cittamātrin thinking. Whether this work is pseudepigraphal or not remains to be determined. Christian Lindtner holds that it is
not. He notes that the Bodhicittavivāraṇa is referred to neither by Buddhapālita nor Candrakīrti, yet it serves as a basic authority for Bhavya “in his most mature work, the Ratnapradīpa.” He neglects quoting it in his earlier works, the Tarkajvāla, Prajñāpradīpa, however Asvabhāva and Śāntarakṣita both refer to this text.
It is Lindtner’s opinion that the Yuktiśāstika, the Catuḥśatakastava and the Bodhicittavivāraṇa “are the most frequently quoted among all works ascribed to Nāgārjuna in later Indian literature.” Lindtner holds that the
“Having seen how vehemently Nāgārjuna attacks any kind of acceptance of svabhāva one would also expect him to have criticized those who might have thought themselves justified in maintaining the absolute existence of vijñāna (citta). But in the texts dealt with hitherto this has only happened incidentally. Here Bodhicittavivāraṇa provides us with the missing link.”
The allusions to Vijñānavāda - or more precisely to the Vijñānavāda of the Laṅkāvatarasūtra...generally held to be posterior to Nāgārjuna - are quite consistent with the fact that Nāgārjuna also refers to this sūtra elsewhere.”
However, Lindtner’ comments are dubious, given that some will assert that holding Bhavya as genuine author of the Ratnapradīpa is itself open to question. Furthermore, Ruegg however holds that this text is the product of the so-called “tantric Nāgārjuna.” This Nāgārjuna seems to have lived in the seventh (or at the latest in the eighth) century. The Bodhicittavivarana may well be his composition....”
He makes mention of the fact that Indian and Tibetan records identify the writers of Tantric works with the writers of wastras with the same name living centuries earlier. The traditions hold that Nāgārjuna, Candrakīrti, etc., lived enormously long lives, even for several centuries. These records do sharply differentiate between the philosophical and tantric corpi associated with these writers however.
The issues involved are a bit like those associated with the “two Vasubandhus” theory, or the elusive “search for the historical Maitreya.” As discussed above, Frauwallner analyzed differences in the style of writing as found in the works of Vasubandhu the author of the Abhidharmakoṣa versus that of the Cittamātrin master of the same name. But
perhaps there were also two Beethovens, one pre and one post Eroica; perhaps there were two Kants, one pre and one post Hume. If we compare a Beethoven Sonata with a symphony, again one could conclude that there were two Beethovens, even though the pieces may have been written contemporaneously.
The same may be said for a great number of authors whose views shifted during the course of their careers. In the case of the tantric Nāgārjuna versus the philosopher original, the issue is concerned with divergent materials and genres. If the Bodhicittavivāraṇa fits in with “Nāgārjuna.” The Prāsaṅgika
Madhayamika renders more or less the same critique of a number of East Asian Buddhist schools influenced heavily by Yogācāra thought of the same kind of relatively substantialist “entity”-view. The problems with notions such as
hongaku and Buddha Nature as seen in many of these schools are problems similar to that Gelukpa have with gZhan stong (or “zeroness of other”). Thinking in their own culture. It leads to a form of nihilism in the declaration of a pure nature which is empty - not inherently - but empty of defilements (kleśa).
How does this seemingly more positive doctrine lead to nihilism? Conceptualizing the Dharmakāya and the Buddha Nature within as the only real truth, concomitant with the notion of the non-existence of external objects lead to a
devaluation of this world’s reality in declaring it all illusion and leads to a nihilism in the sense that language, observed phenomena are viewed as simply false. Such a view loses the notion of two truths. Saṃvṛti is a form of truth, albeit conventional.
Ruegg notes that this work was familiar to Haribhadra who lived in the ninth century. This tantric Nāgārjuna he asserts, lived in the seventh century or eighth century at the latest. This means that in a span of no more than two centuries, the existence of this second Nāgārjuna would have been gone from memory and works of his authorship conflated with that of the original. The theories about all sorts of “multiple-personalitied” Masters is overly-involved. Ruegg himself cites the existence of a tantric Candrakīrti, a tantric Āryadeva, and so on.
One must note that it is odd that such a severe critique of the Yogācāra School, if known to Buddhapālita and Candrakīrti, would not receive reference from them, especially in the passages ascribed by Tibetan tradition as
critiques of Yogācāra by Candrakīrti, i.e., the sixth chapter of the Madhyamakāvatara. But then, one must posit the existence of a tantric Bhāvaviveka to escape the reference to the Bodhicittavivāraṇa in his Ratnapradīpa.
The history and lineages of the Siddhas and Tantrin masters remains very obscure for us, and our sources sometimes give quite divergent accounts of them so that it is not yet possible to fit them coherently into the history of Indian and Buddhist thought.
While the major focus of our work here does not entail detailed redaction-critical work, it is important to make inquiry into whether this text is authentically Nāgārjunan because of the role it will play in our study. This brief text does set the themes for works which later appear on this topic and if we are to engage in historical investigation of these disputes, it is surely important to get our chronological ordering correct. While some will criticize us for dodging the issue, we accept Thurman’s arguments with regard to the tantric versus sastric Buddhist masters.
Thurman however puts this whole type of controversy into a post-modernesque framework which we find intellectually satisfying. He notes that with numerous authors of sastras, it has been fashionable to assert the existence of corollary “tantric” counterparts who are considered specious or pseudonymous of these given tantric texts. For
example, while Nāgārjuna, Bhāvaviveka, et. al. are accepted as the genuine authors of certain treatises, so-called “tantric Nāgārjuna ” and “tantric Bhāvaviveka” are seen as later, pseudepigraphical authors.
He notes that since tantric traditions were oral for centuries and only entered written form near the close of the first millenium of the Common Era, it may be reasonable to hold that these later texts were the orally passed down teachings of the great Masters, the words of whom were written down only centuries later.
It is our aim to clarify this issues and others through the course of this study. For our purposes though, we find it highly aesthetically pleasing to accept the tradition at its word for now, and will examine the Bodhicittavivarana as an acceptable first manifestation of a Madhyamaka critique of key Yogācāra notions. We will prescind from making a judgment on this issue until the conclusion of our study.
While Candrakīrti and Bhāvaviveka were by no means in full agreement on a number of issues, both nevertheless accounted themselves Mādhyamika scholars and held Nāgārjuna in highest esteem as an authority. Equally, they wrote critiques of Cittamātrin notions and are more or less in agreement concerning what they felt were problems with Yogācāra systems.
We have seen the initial stages of the disputes which are the subject of this investigation took place perhaps in the writings of Nāgārjuna himself. A short period of time later, critiques of “Mind-only” systems were written in more extensive fashion, by two of the most famous earlier disciples of Nāgārjuna, Bhāvaviveka and Candrakīrti. Later Tibetan tradition styles the first scholar “Svatantrika-Mādhyamika” and the latter, “Prāsaṅgika-Mādhyamika,” but in their own day relative to the adherents of “Cognition-only,” they were of like-mind.
There are three major aspects of Candrakīrti’s disagreement with Yogācārins with regard to the other-dependent nature. That it is manifest apart from apprehended external objects, that is exists in actuality and that its own inherent reality is lies beyond conceptual analysis.
Bhāvaviveka. In Bhāvaviveka’s commentary on Nāgārjuna’s Stanzas [Concerning] the Root of the Middle Way, he “castigates the followers of “Mind Only” as introducing the heretical notion of a ‘self’ (ātman) under another name.”
“If you say that tathatā (Suchness), although beyond words, is a real thing, then this is the ātman of the heretics which you designate with the different name of tathatā. Your tathatā is a real thing, and yet from the viewpoint of absolute truth it does not belong to the categories of being or nonbeing; but such is the ātman. The heretics also believe that the ātman, a real thing, is omnipresent, eternal,
acting, feeling, and yet beyond all categories and concepts (nirvikalpa). Because it does not pertain to the sphere of words, because it presents no object ot the discursive intellect (vikalpa-buddhi), it is said to be beyond categories. The teaching of the heretics says: ‘Words do not reach there; thought (manas-citta) does not present itself; this is why it is called ātman.”
“Although such is the character of the ātman, you say non the less; ‘Knowledge that relies on the ātman does not.’ But what is the difference between your tathatā and the ātman, since both of them are ineffable and yet possess real self-nature? It is only out of a partisan spirit that you speak as you do. Therefore I cannot accept this tathatā, the same as the ātman, real yet nonexisting.”
Snellgrove feels that Bhāvaviveka’s “argument can only be pressed by taking ātman in a purified Vedanta sense and dissociating it from all notion of a personal sense.” He credits the “Mind Only” School with attempting to solve the problem of continuity over successive births, a basic Buddhist doctrine seemingly at odds with the doctrine of anātman. He notes that the issue of personality for the Cittamātrin is resolved at the level of the conceptualized nature (parikalpitasvabhāva).
At this relatively superficial level, an imaginary or imputed self-identity does indeed exist. At the next stage, the “interwoven-with-other” nature, the problem of individual personality dissolves, the second nature’s emphasis on all entities’ being dependent on what is “other” to themselves for their existence. Here, “the problem of differentiating individual streams of consciousness from the universal stream need not arise.”
“This consciousness is known as the ‘apprehending consciousness’ in that it grasps at and comprehends this bodily form. It is also called “basic consciousness” in that it adheres and clings to this bodily form with a single sense of security. It is also called ‘mind’ in that it is an acucmulation and aggregation of appearances, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations of touch and of thoughts.”
He cites Scherbatsky’s reading of the ālaya as “one of the best descriptions” of the “basic consciousness” to be found among European works. While many will wish to contest this view given Scherbatsky’s “datedness,” nevertheless, he expresses features of the ālaya which serve as objects of Mādhyamika refutation. He calls it
“...a step towards the reintroduction of the dethroned Soul. Uddyotakara and Vacaspatimishra reject it as a poor substitute for their substitute for their Substantial Soul. ...This sacrifice Buddhism could not make. The anātma-vāda could not become ātma-vāda.
Buddhism continued to be a pluralistic dharma theory, but a monistic subway was added to it...[the ālaya] replaces both the external (nimitta-bhāga) and the internal (darśana-bhāga) worlds. But it is not a substance; it is a process; it runs underground of actual experience.”
He goes on to differentiate it from the Greek psyche, the Vedāntic ātman, etc., but nevertheless concludes “that it is a substitute for an individual’s surviving Soul is clear from the words of Uddyotakara and Vacaspati.”
We would personally refrain from employing the views of Vedic scholars to interpret a Buddhist term as complex as that of the basal consciousness, but as we shall have seen from the critiques of this notion rendered by Mādhyamika
scholars, this is more or less their own problem with it: it is an idea promulgated for the purpose of attracting those afraid of relinquishing the ātman to Buddhist doctrine of a relatively less profound view than that outlined in the Prajñāpāramitā literature and upon which Mādhyamika scholars wrote extensive commentaries.
Having investigated Bhāvaviveka’s discussion of basic Cittamātrin notions, we turn to Candrakīrti on the same theme. Living approximately one century after Bhāvya, Candrakīrti’s critique of Cittamātrin notions is more extensive than that of Bhāvaviveka.
When these disputes became issues of concern is not easily or uncontroversially to be determined. Whether pseudepigraphal or not, we do have in hand a work by Nāgārjuna containing within it a hard-handed critique of basic Yogācāra notions. Indeed, whether spurious or authentically Nāgārjunan, the work at the very least indicates the seriousness with which the disciples of Nāgārjuna who attributed the work to him took Yogācāra doctrines. Like other great
Tibetan Madhyamaka texts, lCang skya’s work is it should be kept in mind that the Beautiful Ornament is in large part apologetical. All the sections of the text culminate in the exposition of the definitive truth, which in lCang skya’s Gelukpa tradition is that established
first by Nāgārjuna, descending through Buddhapālita and Candrakīrti through Tsong kha pa and his heirs. We might add, the Gelukpa incorporate the works of Dharmakīrti as an almost equally authoritative interpretation of Mahāyāna notions of śūnyatā, and while conventionally he employs some highly useful understandings, one might well argue if he belongs with Nāgārjuna at the “ultimate level” of analysis.
The next section introduces the work of Rol pa’i rdo rje lCang skya II, a high lama serving as court advisor to the Qing or Manchu emperor, Qianlong (1711-1799). The first lCang skya Qutuqtu (1642-1714) arrived in Peking at the request of the emperor, and the second was born in 1717 to Mongol nomads in Amdo, a region lying in the area
spanning the borders between Tibet and Mongolia, though properly lying within the political boundaries of Tibet. His is the second and perhaps most notable of of the lCang skya lamas. His full title is rDo rje ‘chang lCang skya Rol pai rdo rje Ye shes bstan pa’i sgron me dpal bzang po.
Monastic studies in Beijing. He began his monastic studies in Beijing after a Chinese unit destroyed his home monastery of dGon lung and among his teachers there was the second Thu’u bkwan Qutuqtu Ngag dbang Chos kyi rGya mTSHo (1680-1736). lCang skya in turn would instruct the third incarnation of Thu’u bkwan. He spent some time engaged in study in Tibet as well, studying with the seventh Dalai Lama and receiving final monastic vows from the second Panchen lama.
Patronage of Manchu emperor Qianlong. The previous emperor, Yung-cheng (1722-1735) had been favorable to indigenous Chinese Buddhism, though even this interest was not great. However a great and life-long patron of lCang skya and the Gelukpa order emerged as the emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) ascended to the throne and ruled in the wake of Yung-cheng from 1746-1795. He had been a student of lCang skya’s. This close friendship with the new emperor was the foremost reason for lCang skya’s widespread influence in Mongolia, Manchuria and even China and Tibet as well.
lCang skya learned Manchu, Chinese and Mongolian in order to propagate dGe lugs pa teachings among the peoples who spoke and read these languages. He supervised the compilation of a bilingual glossary, the Dag yig mkhas pa’i ‘byung gnas, which would serve as the foundation for some translations and
A Beautiful Ornament for the Mt. Meru of the Adept [[[Buddha’s]]] Teaching: a Clear Exposition Presenting the Limits of Proofs. lCang skya investigated the claims of various sects of Chinese Buddhism and concluded that the Buddhism of Hva shang Mahāyāna no longer existed in China, and in his view, the most
prevalent philosophical standpoint held by proponents of Chinese Buddhist sects was that of the Vijñānavāda. He wrote his opus magnum, the text to be studied here, in the period between 1736 and 1746. Smith states that it was his interest in the Vijñānavāda Schools preserved as Chinese traditions which sparked his interest in writing his Grub mtha’, and it was this section which he completed first.
Chapter “Kha” of the Clear Exposition: “The three realms are mind alone.” It is in this chapter that lCang skya presents the tenets of the Yogācāra School. The first two sections of his opus magnum deal with presentation of the doctrines of Vedic (Hindu) and (Buddhist) Śrāvakayāna Schools and the last presents the tradition which is his own, the Madhyamaka. In this chapter, lCang skya relies principally on the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha.
[237:4-6] There is no incompatibility between the two great [[[Madhyamaka]] and Yogācāra] chariot systems with regard to the essentials of the great path. The second [point] regarding the stages of the path of the profound theory [[[śūnyatā]]], [discusses] two ways of traversing the path:  the manner of
expounding (gtan la ‘bebs ) the selflessness of phenomena, (dharmanairātmya, chos gyi bdag med,) and after having relied on that,  meditative cultivation of it. In the first [topic] are three [aspects]. Generally, there is taught  a way of abandoning (spong tshul ) the two extremes, 
rejection in particular of the extreme of entical mentation, (samāropa/adhyāropa, sgro ‘dogs) and  a way of entry into the reality (tattva, de kho na nyid) of the Vijñāptimātra [[[Cognition-only]] school] (Tib. rnam rig tsam).
The two extremes are those of “positivism” or “entical mentation” - the imputation of all phenomena as inherently, essentially or substantially existent. “Samāropa” indicates “imputation,” as in the “imputation” of the concrete or inherent existence of entities.
The term ’dogs refers not to normal sense awareness from which images of the world arise and that implies subject/object interaction that initiates thought. Here, ‘dogs points to strictly mentation, “intra-mental” or “subject-focused” thinking, even “intellection.” Therefore, this kind of thinking
applies to mentated thought (rtog pa yid shes) rather than sense-consciousness non-mentated thought, (rtog pa med pa dbang shes rtog ) and “repudiation” (apavāda, skur ba ‘debs pa ) refers to the repudiation of any non-sensorial reality for perceived objects implying there is no basis for existence leading to a type of nominalism. By implication as we shall see, any ultimate truth; hence, in a crude way, this term translates as “nihilism.” Robert Thurman
translates these terms as “reificationism” and “repudiationism.” Though much objection has been raised to my employing the Western terms “nihilism” and “positivism,” in the relative context of Buddhist thought, these terms are accurate. Buddhist thought on the whole is all relatively nihilismistic of course, from the standpoint of Western (Christian, Jewish and Islamic) thought. Positivism.
[237:6-238:2] “In the first [of the three aspects of the first method], is a way of rejecting and identifying the two extremes. In the first of the two [i.e. the identification,] is the mode of cleaving to an extreme of entical mentation. This is cleaving to [a phenomenon’s] establishment by virtue of its existing from its own standpoint (rang gi gnas tsod) in those [[[phenomena]]] in which essence and particularity for the phenomena of form, etc., are imputed
as essences (ngo bo nyid). That is the conceptual object for entically conceptualizing and it is the extreme of entical mentation. Moreover, according to the Bodhisattvabhūmi , it is said, “[Entical mentation refers to] any strong attachment (abhinivewana, mgnon par zhen pa ) at all, from having imputed enticality to that which is not existing. It is [imputing the] existence of essential self-identical characteristics for words conceptualized as entities (bhava, dngos po ) such as form etc., and phenomena such as form etc.”
The Vijñānavāda, according to Gelukpa Prāsaṅgika tradition, assert that an entity does not exist by its own nature as being a basis in itself for the verbal designations we apply to them. A cup is not inherently a cup, but by imputation, an entity becomes imputed as a basis for verbal and conceptual designation by virtue of consciousness.
“Essence” and “particularity” are falsely attributed to entities; all of this arises from the imputation of the name - as the subject - to the form perceived - as an object. These names and concepts ascribed to the objects are said to be bden par grub pa - “truly established”, not however in and of themselves, but they are established rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa - established through their intrinsic characteristics. They are rang bzhin gyis grub pa - established automatically; rang gi ngo bo nyid kyis grub pa - established by their own essence; rang gi gnas tsod kyis grub pa - established by their own standpoint.
This “establishment” is by means of these various characteristics, which are wrongly thought to be “self-identical” with the object to which they refer. Though the characteristics, etc. exist by virtue of consciousness, falsehood arises when a handle is seen on a particular item and it is then called a
“cup.” The ascription of general existent characteristics that are products of the mind and thus are “actual” or “truly established” in their existence as mere mental realities, is imputation when ascribed to a particular cup, etc. In this case, when ascribed to an actual cup, they are ma grub pa - not established.
According to this Madhyamaka treatise, the Yogācāra system views “śūnyatā” as “empty of duality” (dvayaśūnya, gnyis stong ). Name and thought (nāmarūpa, ming dang ‘dogs ) are taken to be truly existent (satyasiddhi, bden par grub pa ) in themselves, so to speak, but imputed when ascribed to another entity.
“Devadatta” exists truly as a name generally, however it is imputed when applied to a particular person with the name “Devadatta.” Name and thought are the same within reifying or hypostasizing thinking. Holding the view that conceptualized phenomena exist in a reified way is “entically conceptualizing” and the object of that activity is the “extreme” or “end” of entical mentation.
The Vijñānavāda will ascribe this extreme to “realist” systems of Buddhist thought as are exemplified by Śrāvakayāna Schools such as the Sautrāntika, et. al. Within this frame of reference, both name and form imputedly, rather than truly, exist. One may cite Asaṅga’s statement from the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha that asserts,
“Because of [the existence of] many, therefore no certain [single] one [[[exists]]]”
[238:2-4] The manner of cleaving to the extreme of nihilism [is as follows]. The extreme of nihilismhas as its conceptual object the refusal to accept that the phenomena of the fully perfected [[[nature]]] and the other-dependent [[[nature]]] exist with its own inherent characteristics. Accordingly, it is taught in the Bodhi[[[sattva]]]bhūmi ,
“To say that the foundation (āśraya, gzhi) for characteristics of imputed words, the basis (rten) of characteristics for imputed words, through an inexpressible nature for entities [in their] purest existence, ultimately does not exist everywhere (thams cad du) in all aspects, is nihilism. This itself makes for a great waste. Separated from religious discipline, it should be known as extremely degenerate.”
These three statements are ascribed to the second of the three natures, the “inter-woven with other” or “other dependent” (paratantra, gzhan dbang) nature. It serves as 1) a foundation for imputed characteristics of words, 2) a basis for imputed characteristics of words (btags p’ai tshig gi mtshan m’ai rten du) and 3) is an inexpressible nature which ultimately exists (brjod du med pa’i bdag nyid kyis don dam par yod pa).
The other-dependent nature is the ultimately existing basis for the first of the three natures, the conceptualized nature (parikalpitasvabhāva, kun bdags pa’i bdag nyid). Were it not ultimately existent as a basis for forms, etc., then the enticalizing
mentation concerning forms, etc., would also be non-existent. If these two are deemed non-existent, then the third or perfected nature (parinispanna, yongs grub) would also not exist, being likewise devoid of any basis for its existence. For this reason, the Madhyamaka standpoint was held to be relatively “nihilismistic”, repudiating the other-dependent nature, hence the perfected nature and thereby, basic teachings of the Mahāyāna tradition. Repudiation of the other-dependent nature is repudiation of the perfected nature.
[238:4-6] In the explicit teachings (dgnos bstan) of the last sūtra [i.e. the Bhūmi], though it did not discuss anything other than the interwoven-with-other [[[nature]], a repudiation of this nature] is also a basis of repudiation of the perfected [[[nature]]]. Therefore the doctrine according to the Bodhisattvabhūmi [is as follows],
Moreover, generally if it is held,
This would be nihilism, however, in this chapter which teaches of the system of nihilism, it is “not existent conventionally,” but does not state that [the two natures] “do not exist in general.” It is held [by these Mādhyamika] that they neither exist through their own characteristics, nor from their own actuality nor ultimately.”
According to Yogācāra teaching, mere forms have as their basis, the interwoven-with-other nature. If one rejects the idea that they have no truly established basis, then reality (tattva, de kho na nyid), which has the interwoven-with-other nature as its basis, is also repudiated. The Cittamātrin, in lCang skya’s reconstruction of their argument, accuses the Mādhyamika of repudiating all three, as we shall see.
[238:6-239:3] The second [topic] is the refutation of those [above-mentioned extremes]. Since the method of rejecting the extreme of entical mentation will be explained below, here [we will] state the manner of rejecting the extreme of nihilism.
On that [point], one who accepts the counter thesis (phyogs snga, uttarapakṣa ) is not from another [[[non-Buddhist]]] school. Other schools assert “permanence,” or assert the cutting off of the non-existence of thought. And the Śrāvakāyanists furthermore assert the establishment of form, etc., by virtue of its own standpoint. It is not the two [[[Vaibhāṣika]] and Sautrāntika Schools] which assert [the existence of] objects, because those two assert the true establishment of form, etc. Therefore, it is a Mahāyānist. According to the [[[Mahāyāna]]] Saṃgrāha,
Some Mahāyānists, themselves erroneously cleave to these words:
lCang skya’s Cittamātrin states that here, the extreme of nihilism will be refuted, for later the extreme of entical mentation will be refuted. The earlier premise is the opposite of nihilism. The tīrthika or non-Buddhist schools, are seen as asserting ultimate permanence, and are not the focus of the refutation here.
The two Śrāvakayāna schools assert the existence of external entities and their existence by their own characteristics, so they are not the object of refutation. The school is a Mahāyānist one, as lCang skya interprets Asaṅga, for it is a school which asserts essencelessness - ngo bo nyid med par smra ba - namely, the niḥsvabhāvavāda of the Madhyamaka tradition.
[239:3-240:1] “The manner of refuting that [is as follows]. The entity of form, etc. is the subject. By merely imputing [it], it would follow that it does not exist, by reason of the non-existence of a basis for the mentation of the self-entity of form etc. Establishing the reason, is derived from the non-establishment by means of its self-identical characteristics for form, etc. There is a [mutual] pervasion. For example, if the aggregates of form, etc., exist, then it is proper to impute an individual [based on them], however, if they do not exist then, ipso facto, any imputation of an individual could not exist.” According to the Bodhi[[[sattva]]]bhūmi ,
‘For example, [in] this type [of view], if the aggregates of form, etc. exist, then it is proper to impute an individual. If they are held as non-existent, then there is no existence in the imputation of an individual, for there is no existent entity [upon which they are based]. Likewise, if the entity of the phenomena of form, etc., exists, then it is proper to impute words to the phenomena of form, etc. If it is held as non-existent, then in the non-existence of the entity, there is no existence of mentation by imputed words,’ it is taught.”
Here, the Cittamātrin notes that if there is no basis for the mentation of words, then they cannot exist. If this is so, conventional truths would be non-existent, leading to annhilationism. Based on the fact of the non-existence of the other-dependent nature being a truly established basis for entical mentation, then the perfected nature, which is the other-dependent nature devoid of imputation, also would not exist.
They do not accuse the Mādhyamika of asserting that “generally, nothing exists”, but attack their notion of rejecting the ultimate establishment, or establishment by itself, of the last two natures, without which the first which is based upon them would not exist.
By rejecting a basis for mentation, the Mādhyamika makes nonsense of verbal reality; all words become “sons of barren women”, utterly unable to communicate meaning and completely false. There is no means to distinguish false convention from true convention. Of course, the Mādhyamika deny that this is the result of their examination of these issues, as we shall see below.
[240:1-2] “Furthermore, if a basis of mentation does not exist, then imputation would not exist. If that does not exist therefore, accordingly, since it is established that imputation [does not exist], then even the suchness of emptiness does not exist; by necessity, this would be the repudiation of the three characteristics [i.e all three natures]. Further, according to [the Bodhisattvabhūmi] itself, if according to them, this basis of mentation which is merest entity [i.e. the other-dependent nature], by not existing, when it would be non-existent everywhere in all [aspects], then how could reality of this sort exist if it is merely imputed?”
For the Mādhyamika, according to the Cittamātrin critique, the ultimate truth which is presented here as the “reality of emptiness” would be “merely an imputed suchness” . It is in this way the Mādhyamika are accused by Cittamātrins in lCang skya’s characterization of their position, of repudiating the ultimacy of the perfected nature, for it has no basis apart from the “mediating” nature, the “other-dependent.”
Entities such as form, etc., are held to be dependent upon that which is “other” to them for their existence in the Cittamātrin formulation. This dependence upon “other” must serve as an ultimately true basis for the imputation and entical mentation of the first, or conceptualized nature, within and upon which the imputation and mentation may take place.
This is the implication of the mention of the pervasion (khyab pa) in the preceding section above: just as fire is other-dependent with the fuel which is its basis, so fire gives rise to smoke which is dependent upon and “other-dependent” with the fire which is its basis. Fuel > Fire > Smoke, then, rest in a mutually pervasive relationship with each other just as Perfected > Other-dependent > Conceptualized do. Repudiating the true establishment of the first two results in the repudiation of all three, culminating in a nihilismistic position. Adhering to a mistaken emptiness.
[240:2-4] “Therefore, after having enumerated [the different arguments], it has been demonstrated that those [[[Mādhyamika]] scholars] would repudiate both reality and imputation. Through this, then, is entry into a mistaken view of emptiness, one that is a nihilismistic view. Because it repudiates both the other-dependent and conceptualized [natures], it even repudiates the perfected [[[nature]]]. From the [[[Bodhisattvabhūmi]]],
If one asks,
‘How is this adhering to a mistaken emptiness?’
Certain ascetics and Brahmins moreover, do not accept “empty throughout of which” [i.e. empty throughout of the conceptualized nature], and furthermore, do not accept “that which is empty” [i.e., the other-dependent nature which is emptied of the conceptualized nature]; this type of view thus is called “adhering to a mistaken [or perverse] emptiness” it is taught.”
“..gang gis stong pa de yang mi ‘dod la gang gis gang stong pa de yang mi ‘dod pa ‘di lta bu ‘di ni....” Literally, “by whatever empty”, an instrumental form which we have in English rendered in an ablative rather than instrumental sense for ease of comprehension. “That is empty of which”, in this case “of which” or “by which” (gang gis=kun btags pa’i bdag nyid) which we are admittedly freely and clumsily yet perhaps more understandably translating as “throughout of which” refers to the conceptualized nature.
That “which is empty” (gang stong) is the other-dependent nature (gzhan dbang) “which is empty of mentation.” It is said here that the Mādhyamika hold a mistaken or perverse understanding of emptiness because they reject the bases for mentation and whereby, mentation itself. Madhyamaka conception of the conventional and ultimate.
This should be expressed. Asking “What is ultimate” to the Mādhyamika, by this school [means] asking ‘What is ultimately true.’ Asking “What is conventional,” [means] asking, ‘What is conventionally set out as truth from a certain point of view” for which one says it is ‘conventionally true.’”
Ultimacy versus ultimate truth. Here, lCang skya II disputes the interpretation of Asaṅga’s commentary. The Cittamātrin, he asserts confuses two issues. Asaṅga discusses what is “ultimate” to the Madhyamaka, which is not the same thing as that which is “ultimately true.” The difference involves whether there is an abstract assertion of “ultimate” or “conventional” relative to “ultimately or conventionally true.” For something to be true it must be true to an observer or, in our translation, “from a certain point of view” (gang gi ngor).
Ultimate truth is found in the mind of the Āryan bodhisattva. What is conventional, e.g. composite phenomena, is somewhat different than how those composite phenomena appear to a given individual. Contrariwise, that which is ultimate - suchness and emptiness - are to be distinguished from the ultimate truth itself, which is suchness and emptiness as they are manifest in the mind of an Āryan bodhisattva in profound meditation.
Conventionality versus conventional truth. According to lCang skya, the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha here in Asaṅga’s words, refers to that which is conventional rather than conventional truth which appears to a given individual. The sūtra doesn’t say “conventionally true” but just “conventional” (kun dzob rather than kun dzob bden pa), etc. All phenomena have these two aspects: their conventionality and ultimacy - and both of these categories as they appear to individuals. Thus, there is the concealing and concealing truth; ultimacy and ultimate truth.
The face in the mirror. One example is that of a face in a mirror. The actual face is the ultimate face, whereas, the face in the mirror is a “concealing truth.” It is a “face”, but a face which conceals its true reality. It is a concealing truth for the eyes, but not, for example, the sense of touch. The term ngor (“to” or “at” the “entity”) is the basis or yul can - the possessor of an object, not the yul, or object itself. With regard to “concealing truth” one must then ask, “concealing for whom”?
Asaṅga’s answer to the question of ultimacy.
[240:6-:241:2] “The response to that, in accordance with the [[[Mahāyānasaṃgrāha]]] itself, if one asks these [questions] however, these statements [follow]:
If one asks,
‘What is the reason for that?’
This is how one should reply (lan ‘debs), it is taught.”
The two modes of the other-dependent are the conventional and the ultimate. The answer to the question, “What is ultimate and what is conventional?” in the Yogācāra system are the two aspects of the other-dependent - which points directly to the non-self-existence of phenomena in the Yogācāra system. In this case, this ultimate is the other-
dependent devoid of the discriminative bifurcation which sees these phenomena as “self-existent.” This is the appropriation of Nāgārjunan “non-self-existence” in the framework of the doctrine concerning the other-dependent which is the mediating support for the ultimate and conventional. This support the Mādhyamika deny. Causation from a “continuum” or from “mere imputation?”
[241:2-5] “The the aim of that [statement is as follows]. The Mādhyamika assert that all phenomena are empty of being established inherently or by their own characteristics as ultimate truth. They assert that the concealing, which is set out as truth from a certain point of view, is cleaving to the establishment of all phenomena in such a way when they are not established truly or by their own characteristics.
The reasoning behind that is, that by virtue of this sort of mental concealment, from having held all phenomena as purely established when they are not established purely, is the cause of “conventionalizing” and “verbal expression,” etc.
With regard to that, is the examination at the outset of the identification of the concealing by this [[[Madhyamaka]]] system? The question is,
‘By you Mādhyamika, that assertion of mental concealment is as truth set out from a certain point of view, [does a phenomenon] arise by means of an earlier cause of the same type as itself, or then, is it merely imputation by means of mentation?’”
This is lCang skya’s hypothetical Cittamātrin quoting from the Saṃgrāha in a passage he interprets as stating the Mādhyamika position. The meaning of the passage is explained from the Yogācāra standpoint. It is stated that the Mādhyamika accept that all phenomena are empty of being established by either their own inherent existence or by
their own essential characteristics. They accept the idea that cleaving to the establishment of all phenomena by their own characteristics or as truly established, are in fact not so established; the concealing level of truth is that which appears true to a perceiver, i.e., the inherent existence of phenomena, etc.
The reason for that is that grasping phenomena as purely established when in fact they are not is the “concealing” truth which is only true as much as it is perceived so by an observer. A deeper level of analysis will demonstrate
that things only conventionally exist as they appear. This is the Saṃgrāha’s presentation of Mādhyamika tenets as interpreted by lCang skya’s hypothetical Cittamātrin opponent. It is necessary at the beginning to examine the Madhyamaka understanding of the concealing in order to refute it.
Prior sates condition posterior states. The Cittamātrin questions the Mādhyamika concerning whether phenomena arise from causes which are previously of the same sort as themselves. This means, yesterday’s table will have given rise to today’s table by means of having a continuous relationship with the prior table. Or does it, according to the Mādhyamika as presented in this section, arise simply by mere imputation which emerges from mentation?
[241:5-242:2] “From the [[[Mahāyāna]] Saṃgrāha] itself,
‘On that [point], these words should be expressed. The perception of inherent existence is either accepted as appearing from concealment and verbal expression as a cause, or else it is accepted as verbal expression and concealment alone.’
Furthermore, when some Mādhyamika say,
That type of mental concealment is the subject. It would follow that it is not [the case] that it is not ultimately established, because of arising by its own [prior state] as a cause;” in [this lies] the refutation. Other-dependent mind and mental phenomena arise from dependence upon their own causes and conditions. Since they arise from establishment by means of their own characteristics, it is thought by this [[[Yogācāra]]] School as [a result of their] analysis, that they would thus arise ultimately.”
All is strictly imaginary? Here again is a quote from the Saṃgrāha. It asks the Mādhyamika if he accepts that phenomena appear from the concealing or from verbal expression as causes, or do they arise as just verbal expression and the concealing merely, not causally. The implication is that the Mādhyamika cleave to a view which sees phenomena as completely unreal and imaginary, that they assert what is the traditional “heresy” so to speak, of Indian Buddhism which is to assert “causelessness” (ahetukavāda) to establish a logical claim.
The real basis of the concealing. The refutation is set up subsequently. If some Mādhyamika state that it is incorrect to say that phenomena do not have a causal continuity with their prior and subsequent states, then it would follow that the concealing, which is the subject of the prelimary examination,
would not be unestablished ultimately, which is to say that it would be ultimately established, in this case meaning that the basis for the mentation - which is the other-dependent nature - of a table would be real, actual. This is the “grasping at the truth” or “true existence” (bden ‘dzin) of the table’s existence exists, whether or not the “true status” of the table is rightly or wrongly perceived.
This is to say that mentation emerges as a result of causal conditions which arise from a true basis in the “other-dependent” nature. If they have no such basis, the Cittamātrin states that all is arbitrarily imagined. This is the point of their Mādhyamika critique. Therefore, while a table may be falsely imputed (as gray when it is in fact red, for example), the false imputation arises from causes and conditions which have a basis in reality, and in this even mistaken sense, these imputations are “actual”, “real” and hence, “ultimately existent.”
[242:2-4] “From the Pramāṇavarttika,
‘One is able to see seeds, etc., in sprouts, etc.; however, if that is concealing....’
And so on, and this is the same point [as that made by Asaṅga in the MS].
Furthermore, from the [Saṃgrāha] itself,
‘However, if it is from concealment and verbal expression as causes, if through this, then it does not exist, since it is occurs [merely] from the concealing and from verbal expression as causes. It is not appropriate to do this.’
This is the doctrine.
[Again,] on this point, [are comments] from the Legs bShad sNying po,
‘That concealing is inner verbal expression.’
This is the meaning of the doctrine.
Mental concealment, [which involves the distinction of] ‘this’ [from] ‘that’, would be conceptualizing the apprehension in [one’s] thought of this [[[state]] of affairs], and in that case, that conceptualization either arises from its own continuum, or does not so arise. This is the [type of] thinking which generates imputation.”
A Lotus arises from its seed. Here are two quotes, one from Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavarttika, the other from Asaṅga, again from the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha. These are both given as evidence of the Cittamātrin’s position that there must be a basis in causal fact for perceived events, whether they are rightly or wrongly perceived.
One sees a Lotus seed sprout into a Lotus plant. One sees a kernal of corn sprout into a corn stalk. If these events were based merely on mentation, why is it that one does not impute a rice plant arising from a kernel of corn and vice-versa? Without a basis in the other-dependent nature, as Asaṅga states, an entity could not exist; everything would be illusory and purely imagined - a Berkeleyianesque dream-world.
Tsong kha pa inner versus outer mental concealment. The quote from Tsong kha pa’s Legs bshad snying po aims to supplement Asaṅga’s and Dharmakīrti’s commentary. The concealing of which the Mādhyamika speak is an inner mental concealment, not a concealment which projects reality onto an “external” world.
Nevertheless, an inner mental concealment requires causal foundation. All other-dependent entities, whether correctly or wrong perceived are dependent, and mind is equally dependent upon other than itself for its existence. Arguments in favor of establishing a basis for phenomena.
[242:4-243:6] “However, according to some Mādhyamika, if they should say,
…then that is incorrect. On this, [with regard to] the ‘[one whose awareness is] concealed,’ the reason is because of the non-existence of the other-dependent as a basis for effecting mentation. If the other-dependent exists, it is from the necessity of [its] existing by means of its own inherent characteristics.
Furthermore, when this [[[Yogācāra]]] School, maintains that the conceptualized nature is not established by its own characteristics, [they] do not assert that it does not necessarily exist, but [rather] that it is when the other two natures are not established by their own characteristics, that it is through this point that one [must] accept [that the conceptualized nature] of necessity does exist. According to the [[[Mahāyāna]] Saṃgrāha] itself,
The conceptualized: imputation with a basis in reality. The Yogācāra School holds that the conceptualized nature is not established by means of inherent characteristics. This means that thought patterns or verbalized expressions etc., do not exist as they appear. However the bases for that nature - the other-dependent and the perfected natures - must exist as established by their own characteristics. Apart from that, the Cittamātrin deems the assertion that they do not exist established by their own characteristics a nihilismistic view (med par lta).
It is not proper to say [this]. To that [we say], it is because of the refutation by valid cognition by which it is known [that there are] inherent characteristics for the other-dependent. From the [[[Mahāyānasaṃgrāha]]],
Moreover, should some Mādhyamika assert, ‘There is no error [in] the mind seeing [entities existing in the mode of having their own inherent characteristics and thereby creating the grounds of causation for those entities]. It is because that mind itself is mistaken [with regard to the actual nature of those entities].’
Well, does that mistaken mind exist or not exist [by means of inherent characteristics]? If it exists, then, that it is non-existent through its own inherent characteristics [in its mode] as “other-dependent,” would not be proper [with regard to its] “ultimate” [[[Wikipedia:status|status]]]. Therefore, the mistaken mind exists by means of its own characteristics.
If it does not exist through its own inherent characteristics, [things] are known by a confused mind, although [if that mind itself] does not exist through its own characteristics, it follows that [for the mind] to know [things to exist] through their own inherent characteristics is not real because [the mind] does not [in that case] exist through its own inherent characteristics. If this confused mind also does not exist through its own inherent characteristics, then it is through this point that it [would] necessarily be non-existent.”
Interwovenness-with-other is established by direct experience. The Mādhyamika view is that the ultimate (paramārthah, don dam pa) is the other-dependent nature being devoid of establishment by its inherent characteristics. Asaṅga states that this is refuted by valid cognition (tsad ma, pramāṇa) which clearly knows that everything exists is “enmeshed-with” or “interwoven-with” what is “other” than itself. This is known by valid means of cognition (dmigs
pa’i tsad ma, pratyakṣapramāṇa) by means of which this is evident. The three types of valid cognition are direct perception, inference and testimony. The other-dependent is proven logically. Furthermore, there is logical valid cognition (rig pa’i tsad ma) which is not referred to here. In this case, it is not a question of a logical contradiction, e.g., son of a barren woman, etc. That perceived phenomena are “other-dependent” is evident to direct perception in conjunction with logical analysis.
Clearly, a sprout is dependent upon water and sunlight for its existence. This is evident both to direct perception and logical reasoning. It is unlike a “rabbit’s horn”, an entity which logically violates the definition of “rabbit” and can nowhere be seen by direct perception. This “dependence upon” or “other-dependentness with” what is “other” is the essential characteristic with which all entities are endowed in order to attain status as an existent phenomena.
Otherness is causation and condition. The Madhyamaka response here is that the awareness of these inherent characteristics is due to a mistaken consciousness. Asaṅga says, “What is the reason for this mistaken consciousness’ existing?” He notes that the Mādhyamika themselves will consent to knowing objects. Have they no cause? The causational aspect is due to its “enmeshedness with other.”
Mistaken consciousnesses exist though mistaken. The mind which perceives separate, independent entities, etc., may be mistaken and confused in its perception, but surely this mind itself exists. Thus the Cittamātrin has established the causelessness and groundlessness of the Mādhyamika understanding of conceptualization and mentation; it is not enough to assert that consciousness comprehends phenomena in a mistaken manner, for one has to give answer as to how and why this mistakenness itself arises. lCang skya sets up the explanation above to clarify his quotation from Asanga in the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha which follows and makes very nearly the same point.
[243:4-6] “According to the [[[Mahāyānasaṃgrāha]]] itself,
‘If one should question these statements, then there is this response. If one should answer, “It is because of its being a mistaken entity.”’
However, if it exists, therefore ‘the inherent non-existence of all phenomena is the ultimate’ is improper. However, if it does not exist by means of [its own inherent characteristics], because there is [in fact] a mistaken entity [which does exist], to say ‘any object is inherently non-existent’ is inappropriate, as it is taught. These [issues] should be examined in this [way].”
If no entity exists, then how could it be non-existent? This reiterates what lCang skya stated above. His words serve here as to elucidate Asaṅga’s words quoted above. Again, an entity may be mistakenly perceived, however in its mistakenness, it nevertheless exists by virtue of being other-dependent. This generates a paradox: if no entity exists, then to say it is inherently non-existent is incorrect.
[243:6-244:3] “Well then, [if] some opponent [asserts],
According to the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra,
‘If it is a composite [[[entity]]], it would not be ultimate,’
Further, according to the Madhyānta[[[vibhāga]]],
Further, the chapter of the Sutrālaṃkara which elucidates the five characteristics of ultimate truth, explains that [the perfected nature] is “non-arising” and “non-ceasing.” In the commentary [on the Sutrālaṃkara, it is said that] the conceptualized and other-dependent [natures] do not exist by means of their [[[own]] inherent] characteristics, and through the explanation that the perfected [[[nature]]] is not non-existent by its own characteristics, and [finally,] for the reason that these are the definitive texts of the Yogācāra [School]. When this has been stated, there is no error.”
The other-dependent: not ultimately established? The opponent cites scriptures which he thinks refutes the idea that the other-dependent is ultimately established. The above texts as they are quoted, seem to indicate that only the perfected nature is ultimate, not the other-dependent. From the
Sutrālaṃkara he cites as two of the five characteristics of the ultimate truth elucidated in that text are those of “non-arising” and “non-cessation.” The other-dependent, serving as a basis for entities which are dependent upon what is other to them for existence and thus, serving as a causal nexus for the conceptualized nature, etc., does not qualify as “non-arising” and “non-ceasing”, etc. These are definitive texts of the Yogācāra School and thus should be accepted as authoritative on this issue.
[244:3-244:6] “Earlier, it was explained that both the other-dependent and the perfected are ultimately existent, but those texts [above] explain that the other-dependent is ultimately non-existent. There are two “ultimates” which are designated nominally, and therefore they are not of identical meaning.
Again, both the other-dependent and the perfected are explained as “ultimately existent,” that is established existent ultimately through its own characteristics nominally, which is an establishment only by virtue of verbal expression. According to those scriptures, the other-dependent is ultimately
non-existent, and only the perfected is taught as ultimately existent. Having generated the gnosis of stainless, profound meditation is the “supreme,” and this is called the ‘supreme goal’, then, since it is the object of that [[[meditation]]]. Therefore, that is the supreme goal which is so established. This latter one is the final objective of the pure path; both [aspects of the path] result in the ultimate, though the goal is the same. The proof for this will not be elucidated, for it is well known.”
The perfected nature: neither existent nor non-existent. The opponent is said to fail to distinguish two types of ‘ultimate’ status: ultimate existence and ultimate truth. The perfected is said to be yod min - not existent in the same manner as the conceptualized and other-dependent, and it is said to be med min - not non-existent, for it exists with its own characteristics, eg., non-arising, non-ceasing, etc.
The other-dependent: ultimately existent but conventionally true. The other-dependent is said to be don dam yod pa, ultimately existent, for all things arise by means of this nature as their causal nexus. Nevertheless, it is said to be kun dzob du bden pa - conventionally true - because contained within its essential characteristics are the fact of subject-object bifurcation inherent in its nature as “dependent-upon-other.” The implication of this is that
Ultimate truth: truth from a ‘certain point of view.’ Ultimate truth then, is a truth “from someone’s point of view” (gang gi ngor bden) mentioned above. In this case, the ultimate truth is the “inner samādhi, holy and uncontaminated” which is the final goal of an Āryan bodhisattva.
Kleśa and jñeya āvaraṅa. The two aspects of the “pure path” are that which removes nyon sgrib - kleśāvaraṇa - delusive or “afflictive” obscurations and that which removes shes sgrib - jñeyāvaraṇa or “obscurations to omniscience.” The first entails shedding the notion of ego or ātmadṛṣṭi by means of meditation on the selflessness of the individual (gang zag gi bdag med, puḍgalanairātmya). The second - obscurations to omniscience or obscurations of objects of knowledge - involves meditation on the selflessness of phenomena (chos kyi bdag med, dharmanairātmya).
The convergence of the two types of awareness of selflessness in the samādhi of an Āryan bodhisattva is ultimate truth - in this case, truth from the point of view of one who is highly realized and who has become directly aware of the two aspects of śūnyatā - the emptiness of self and phenomena. Mādhyamika Response.
Candrakīrti: assent to lCang skya’s presentation of the other-dependent. Candrakīrti assents to this interpretation of the Yogācārin understanding of other-dependent entities in the sixth section of the Madhyamakāvatara. That interdependent forms appear in the asbsence of any external object, that they exist in actuality and that at the level of ultimate comprehension, its nature cannot be conceptually grasped are features that are not in dispute. That is to say, it would seem that these are not features which are disputed as to whether or not these are positions actually taken by Yogācārin scholars.
Candrakīrti: external objects exist in dreams. Whether reality is to be understood in this way is very much in dispute. As Huntington (1989) relates the Prāsaṅgika rebuttal, all these assertions are open to question. Candrakīrticontends that there is nothing like a thought which could occur devoid of an external object. He rejects the analogy of the dream, i.e. the Yogācārin assertion that in dreams, external objects are perceived but obviously do not exist. Why is this necessarily so? Candrakīrti asks. His point is that if the existence of consciousness in a dream is shown through the memory of the dream during waking hours, then so also is the existence of external objects in that dream.
External objects in dreams or waking reality are not produced. He acknowledges that the thrust of the Yogācārin position here is to demonstrate that just as in a dream, externality and objectivity are perceived but do not in fact exist, and that by analogy, our waking experience of external objects should be understood in the same way as figments of consciousness. The reason the Madhyamaka, and in particular ardent Prāsaṅgikas like Candrakīrti are to be understood as repudiationists stems from the fact that, as he maintains, not only are external objects not produced, the consciousness that perceives them, whether in a dreaming or waking state, also is not produced. The sense consciousness, the external object and the consciousness are all three false.
There is no thought in the absence of an object. There can be no thought in the absence of an external object and for a sense-consciousness to operate, it requires a sphere of operation, which implies a relative externality, though both of these do not, in the Madhyamaka understanding, ultimately exist.
Without an external object, cataracts should be seen by those with healthy eyes. Candrakīrti cites the well-known example of the person afflicted with ophthalmia. According to the example, someone with a certain type of ophthalmia may perceive hairs where none exist to anyone else. If consciousness takes place without an external object, then even someone not afflicted with ophthalmia should perceive the hairs someone who is so afflicted sees. Since this does not occur, this these - that of consciousness not being consciousness of an external object - is disproven.
The false appearance exists. In the Bhāṣya or “commentary”, he adds that the appearance of hairs exist and not simply the consciousness of the hairs itself. Since both the consciousness and the hair are unproduced (as are all phenomena in Prāsaṅgika theory), it is difficult to comprehend consciousness in the absence of an external object. If a person without this ophthalmia looks at the same place that a person afflicted with ophthalmia looks at, since there is no external object involved, why shouldn’t the person unafflicted see the same hairs that the afflicted person sees, for the non-existence of an external object is common to both?
Candrakīrti (MA) of course, disagrees. It is rather those who reject the truth of the concealing level of reality who fail to follow Master Nāgārjuna into the most profound depth of understanding and who maintain themselves in bondage to reified thought. Concealing truth is a means to the ultimate truth but is fully “true” nevertheless. He states that those who follow Nāgārjuna have a quite different conception of concealing truth than do Yogācārins with regard to the other-dependent nature.
The concealing truth points to the fact that though things do not ultimately exist, our everyday experience of their existence is affirmed. For the arhats who have relinquished attachment to the aggregate constituents of existence, “entities” indeed no longer exist, but it is the experience of the ordinary individual whose mental continuum is obscured by entical thinking, it is this experience which rather than being negated, is upheld. As he says, one may wish to eradicate concealing truth, however, in such a struggle, he places his wager on the persistence, value and necessity of concealing truth.
Candrakīrti (MAB) ascribes the two truths doctrine to the Buddha himself. The great master taught only two truths and no third alternative. The concealing truth was taught for the benefit of living beings among the six destinies. The truth of the concealing truth was taught by the Buddha to the rich and the poor, to men and to women, he declares. The truth of the concealing nature of everyday experience was taught as an antidote to the eight
mundane dharmas or “phenomena” which afflict beings, inclusive of a desire for fame, wealth, etc. To see clearly the concealing aspect of these desires is to begin the process of liberation from them. What is concealed of course is the ultimate truth inhabiting a much more profound level of reality, indeed, is finally, reality. “Ripping away” levels of concealment from those obscured by it through appropriately refuting “entical” conceptualization for
ordinary individuals is accomplished by means of the consequential logic which finds the error in entical thought and reveals it, thereby revealing some aspect of the ultimate truth. As Tsong kha pa states, this method, the Prāsaṅgika method, is intended for students of the Madhyamaka tradition to eradicate philosophical views altogether, for properly speaking, the ultimate truth is not a view, though it can be expressed verbally at the level of concealing truth.
Tsong kha pa. The Venerable Tsong kha pa elucidates the Prāsaṅgika standpoint with regard to the example of a sprout and the implications for notions of past, present and future. He compares the Prāsaṅgika position with regard to the three aspects of time with that of the Vaiśeṣika, with the important distinction that the Prāsaṅgika standpoint “de-absolutizes” this perspective. According to the Vaiśeṣika standpoint, the three times exist absolutely, and are further subdivided into a past, present and future and so forth.
The Śrāvakayāna Schools view the past and future as “absolute” negations of the present, whereas the Prāsaṅgika accept the past as being simply the past. The future of the sprout is not an absolute negation (med dgag) but an affirming or implicative negation (ma yin dgag), for in the Prāsaṅgika view, the f
uture plant has a cause in the “non-completion” of the present state of being a sprout. This past, present and future are thus existent in a concealing manner, but through this method, the Prāsaṅgika avoid the complicated machinery of the Yogācārin theories with regard to the basal consciousness and the maturation of seminal potentiality.
The main point to be made in this chapter is that relative to the Madhyamaka, the Yogācāra system is more “foundationalist” in the sense that conceptualized entities and cognition with all its multifarious levels, are held to be “actual,” “real” or having an ultimately established basis in
existence. This school views the Madhyamaka as repudiating any foundation for consciousness or experiential existence via its doctrine of “non-self-entity” (niḥsvabhāvavāda). This entails the repudiation of the path to full awakening and thus the Buddha’s basic teaching. Lack of a doctrine concerning a basal consciousness entails repudiation of karma theory. Not discussed by lCang skya at this point in our text (see
chapter six four an in-depth analysis) is the repudiation of the doctrines concerning the existence of a basal consciousness. While as Harris correctly notes, according to Asaṅga, even the basal or ālaya consciousness “dissolves” upon full awakening as karmic seeds and propensities are exhausted. However,
even conventionally, this doctrine is lacking. As an upāya it suffers from the distinct possibility that a Buddhist practitioner cleaving to this and related doctrines may fall into the mental trap of an “ego-view” (ātmadṛṣṭi). Certainly one notes that tathāgatagarbha theory as played out among East Asian forms of Buddhism where the Yogācāra system arguably predominated, reveal a tendency to ātman-like characteristics. But this topic will await more thorough investigation in chapters to come (please see chapter six, the Conclusion and the first Appendix).
Chapter Four: Self-awareness
We are employing this section of lCang skya’s work as an epitome of Yogācāra thought. Self-awareness is true of many aspects of the totality of sentient consciousness, not only primary mental consciousnesses but sense consciousnesses as well. We feel that it is appropriate to focus on this notion as forming a central, vital feature of Yogācāra doctrine because without the
establishment of self-awareness, much of this school’s systematic thought falls apart. Certainly it serves to attract some of Candrakīrti’s most vociferous objection. The idea of the centrality of mind and mental phenomena is ancient in Buddhism, and “proto-Yogācāra” elements in the Pali canon are abundant.
1. The extreme view refuted,
2 the actual meaning established and
3. warding off arguments.
[244:6-245:6] “From the Legs bshad snying po:
‘If it is thought that even gnosis would be an object, since this school accepts that that gnosis is self-aware, then [that gnosis,] is dependent upon this certain object, the goal is reality itself which is then the object which is known, moreover, then, [one,] in being aware of [this], incurs no fault.’
If it is thought that the aim of this teaching is just as [discussed above], then the three [topics of] the imputed extreme [which should be] refuted, the real meaning established and disputation avoided [should be examined].”
The issue at hand concerns whether gnosis (jñāna) has an object. This presents a problems. If gnosis has an object, then many qualites predicated of it would not apply. Full awakening to the reality of śūnyatā entails a lack of bifurcative consciousness. It is enmeshment with the Dharmakāya. This status in profound inner samādhi allows no subject/object dualism so inherent at the level of the conceptualized nature.
If gnosis is self-aware, and if consciousness by definition of consciousness of something, then gnosis itself becomes an object of its own self-awareness. Yet if gnosis can be an object, then this implies it could be some relatively reified entity. This is the subject to be investigated below.
1. Refuting an extreme view: self-aware gnosis knows itself as its own object.
“As to the first [of the three], one opponent [asserts]:
‘In the Yogācāra system, gnosis in the samādhi of an Āryan is self-aware. If that is so, it would follow that the final object of the pure path is gnosis itself, since it knows itself by means of gnosis itself, and saying this introduces the assertion of the earlier premise...there does not exist a fault since what is understood as the object is knowing reality....’
and he taught for this purpose. Not only that, that answer [[[Tsong kha pa]] gave] would not be correct [if the issue is understood as according this prior premise]. By the outsider [[[non-Buddhist]]],
This is a reply. He is not establishing stainless gnosis as the final object of the pure path, since he says merely there does not exist a fault, since it is known with regard to that [point] gnosis knows reality as its object. In gnosis itself being self-aware, there is not the slightest error and there does not exist any purpose and ability [to reject the opponent’s assertion] any further.”
This passage aims to refute a false notion which might arise in the minds of some. Tsong kha pa states that there is no fault in the notion of “self-aware gnosis,” for the object of gnosis in the samādhi of an Āryan is reality - śūnyatā - itself, and not that gnosis itself has itself as its object.
Three aspects: 1) refuting wrong notions, 2) establishing the actual meaning and 3) warding off objections. There will be three aspects to this discussion: 1) refuting wrong notions which are extreme views concerning this topic, 2) establishing the “actual meaning” i.e., Tsong kha pa’s own view and that, by implication, of the Yogācāra position and 3) warding off objections to his discussion of the actual meaning of “self-aware gnosis.”
The “earlier premise” stated that if gnosis is self-aware, it should have itself as its own object. If that is so, then such gnosis could not be nondiscriminating gnosis, for it has a subject and an object albeit, self-reflexive. To say this falls into a “Nāgārjunan trap,” which entails the impossibility of such a self-reflexive standpoint.
If gnosis were self-aware, then it stands to reason, the eye, ear, etc. consciousnesses would also be self-aware. This is encapsulated by the notion that “the eye does not see itself, therefore it is the eye” and “fire does not burn itself, therefore it is fire.” lCang skya asserts that seeing the Yogācāra idea in this light is to equate it with views of non-Buddhist schools which do indeed assert gnosis as having itself as its own object. This is incorrect and invites “limitless logical errors” which are entailed by the fact that any knowing consciousness must have an object, which is in this case as Tsong kha pa states, “the object is knowing reality.” What is meant as the “actual meaning” of the passage will be discussed below.
[245:6-247:1] “And another opponent [asserts]:
‘The meaning of that teaching is [as follows]. It would follow that by the previous premise, the gnosis of [an Āryan’s] samādhi would know itself by itself, because of that gnosis of samādhi being a gnosis which is self-aware of each [thing] (so-so rang gis rig pa’i ye she). Therefore, it is an object of itself for the gnosis of samādhi itself.’
‘Though the gnosis of samādhi is a gnosis which is self-aware of each [thing], it does not know itself, because of being perfected as gnosis aware of itself so having relied upon the manner of knowing reality (chos nyid) as its own object. This is taught as the answer which was stated.’
In stating the prior [[[assertion]]] one has not in the least now understood the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa’s]]] thought. There are no adherents to tenets who assert that the meaning of saying “gnosis which is self aware of each [thing]” knows itself by itself, because there do not exist also among scholars of India or Tibet who say,
Because such confusion as that would not arise in the intelligent, however, if it did arise, by saying, “this school,” having proclaimed by means of this object the Yogācāra [School] because of there being no necessity to do this. However, even if [what is meant] is according to the manner of the previous premise, it is that is not the reason as correctly explained by the Venerable Omniscient [[[Tsong kha pa]]] as the meaning of self-aware of each [thing]... as his answer, but
There does not exist an aim to be examined in particular for general and specific objects. There does not exist even a proof of the necessity remaining and it does not exist in the text the word “self-aware of each.” Furthermore, it is thought upon reflection done roughly in this chapter by the Venerable Mahātma [[[Tsong kha pa]]] does not appear to the inferior minds who are weak in practice and schooling.”
The object of gnosis is not itself, but reality. This passage continues the first topic which is the refutation of extreme views with regard to the concept “gnosis which is self-aware.” lCang skya states that there do not exist any proponents of the view the opponent ascribes to the Cittamātrins. In any case, it is certainly not what Tsong kha pa himself was referring to, for he furthermore does not employ the specific term “gnosis which is self-aware of each [thing]...” but rather,merely,
“If it is thought, that this school, since it accepts gnosis as self-aware, that even gnosis itself would be an object, having relied upon an object, because it is understood that the object is knowing reality, there does not exist a fault.”
Only those “weak in practice and schooling” would even think this is the meaning, is their idea. The second of three topics: establishing the actual meaning.
[247:1-248:1] “Establishing his own system is the second [of the three topics]. The important point of the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa’s]]] teaching in this chapter should be explained. [With regard] to that, are two [aspects]:  the manner in which confusion arises and  the explanation of his response.
The first [of these]. It is taught in this manner in the chapter of the Madhyamakāloka which expresses the assertions of the Yogācāra [School], and likewise, according to the Saṃdhinirmocana, Laṅkāvatara and the Gandavyuha [[[sūtras]]], it will be shown,
‘There is not [anything] other than mind-alone which ultimately exists, wherefore all phenomena are taught as embodying merely mind. Therefore, that all phenomena are inherently non-existent would not be established.’
With this last [quote], from the text of the Ratnakūṭa[[[sūtra]]]. There is no doubt that the ultimate actuality (dngos po) will be self-awareness [in the gnosis of the samādhi] of Āryans. If it were otherwise, as it is expressed in the Saṃdhinirmocana[[[sūtra]]], there is no non-existent actuality. If one asks
what that actuality is, it is the gnosis of the Āryan and what the Āryan sees which is ineffable, perfected Buddhahood, inexpressible dharmatā suchness, because it is perfect enlightenment, and is verbally conventionalized as “composite” and likewise, “non-composite,” which would be contradicting this teaching.” it is taught.
[lCang skya continues:] Generally, Yogācāra scholars, having relied upon the refutation logically of grasped external objects, and the subject, which is empty of being substantially different from the object, there would be left remaining merely the experienced knowing of awareness, and establishing substantially that mere knowing which is awareness of that type of experience, it is not acceptable to reject this even by any sort of conventional examination or ultimate examination by valid cognition.”
The second of these three topics then is the establishment of Tsong kha pa’s own system of thinking about these issues. With regard to this system then are the two aspects of demonstrating the way in which confusion about self-aware gnosis arises and Tsong kha pa’s own response to the issue. The first quote is from the Madhyamakāloka, etc., in a section which discusses Yogācāra views. This refers to statements in which both subjective and objective aspects of reality are taught as “Yogācāra,” or “Mind-only.” The idea here is that there is an ultimate “actuality” which is strictly consciousness.
Ultimate reality in the Yogācāra system is that “ineffable,” “inexpressible” gnosis which is encompassed by the Āryan in deepest samādhi. This being inexpressible, to call it “composite” or “non-composite” would contradict the doctrine. Composite refers to the other-dependent, non-composite to the perfected and “verbally conventionalized” to the conceptualized. Again, the other-dependent is composite because, being dependent upon other, it requires a basis and that with which it is interwoven to arise. The perfected is non-composite and is the other-dependent devoid of the conceptualized.
It is a basic Yogācāra doctrine that subject and object, or more literally, “grasper” and “grasped” are not substantially different from one another. What is declared ultimate in this case is the gnosis of the samādhi of an Āryan, in which subject-object dualism ceases, yet the “mere knowing awareness” itself is real or actual. Therefore to say that all actuality is inherently non-existent is false, for that awareness of the Āryan is real or actual.
This cannot be rejected by conventional examination, which would include logical analysis, or via ultimate valid cognition, which would be the experiential awareness of one who has attained to the ineffable gnosis in the samādhi of an Āryan. In that Āryan’s samādhi , while it is taking place, non-dualism etc. is manifest; however after the meditative action which is the samādhi of the Āryan is over, the remembrance of the experience fails to attain to the ultimate status of the Āryan’s direct cognition of śūnyatā which was achieved during his experience of samādhi .
[248:2-5] “Therefore, when dharmatā has been made into an object which is non-affirmingly negated by the stainless gnosis of the Āryan’s meditation, then that gnosis knows dharmatā implicitly, and any other [positive] phenomenon is not asserted to be known.
However, at that time, the meditative gnosis itself effects the experience of the valid cognition of direct perception, which is necessary. If it were otherwise, then that meditative gnosis itself therefore is not established as valid cognition, and later, even the memory, ‘I realized dharmatā directly,’ would not arise as a memory.
In this manner, self-awareness is capable of being proven logically. If it were otherwise, if one were to have accepted as non-existent that self-awareness which effects one’s own experience [in memory] even for the valid cognition of direct perception of sense[-consciousness], then according to [proponents of] the Yogācāra [School], this is incapable of refutation.
Because of this, it is entirely the same reason [for both cases]. Accordingly, it is established that self-awareness exists at the time [of the Āryan’s meditative state]. That self-awareness is a knowing which does not abide even a bit corrupted by dual appearance.”
Here we have mention of “non-affirming negation” (med dgag). Contraposed to this is what is known as an “affirming negation.” An example of the latter would the statement, “empty wallet.” The negation, “empty” establishes a positive existence, in this case, a wallet. An example of the former would be “there is no money in an empty wallet,” which does not suggest a positive phenomenon which does lie within the wallet in place of money. What is “non-affirmingly negated” about “dharmatā” is its emptiness of duality. This absence is does not imply a positive phenomenon which exists in place of this absence.
“Self-awareness” (rang rig) here refers to the awareness within consciousness of consciousness itself. This is demonstrated, according to Yogācāra proponents, by memory. When one remembers seeing the color blue, one’s consciousness is not focused upon a currently perceptible external blue, but the picture of blue as it is retained in the consciousness. This is the self-awareness of sense consciousness.
The same reasoning is offered for the ability of an Āryan to remember the state of meditative awareness of dharmatā. There must be a self-awareness which is present in order for the memory of that experience to persist later in a post-meditative state. In this state of self-awareness, the memory is not a state wherein one is conscious of an “other” (gzhan rig), but of internal consciousness, conscious of itself. There is “a withdrawal of dual appearance” (gnyis snang nub) here, and one is aware of only an inner state (kha nang kho nar phyogs pa).
This is the implication of the existence of subject and object in a dream state. Only an inner consciousness perceives - falsely - the real existence of subject and object. All the perceptions are products of one’s mind. This is of course what proponents of Yogācāra doctrines will want to affirm concerning our wakened state of distinguishing subject and object as well. The irrefutability of self-awareness.
[248:5-249:1] “Generally, according to the Yogācāra system, when one desires to no longer abide in the corruption of confusion with regard to the self-awareness for the continuum of even an ordinary individual, not to mention with regard to the self-awareness which arises in the direct experience of stainless gnosis which is the real antidote of ignorance.”
Therefore, this type of mere self-awareness, would not be refuted even by logic of ultimate examination (don dam dbyod byed). Because of the irrefutability even by any sort of logic which would refute the establishment by its own characteristics of the imputed which imputes attributes and essence and logically rejects grasper and grasped as different substances.
Those who assert the existence of self-awareness for the ordinary individual even moreso must admit the existence of self-awareness for the bodhisattva in meditation on emptiness. This self-awareness in the mental continua of even ordinary individuals is necessary to remove confusion which derives from the false imputation of attributing essence and attributes to seemingly external entities, and of the basic paradigm of subject/object dualism. The imputation of essence in this context, entails the “fitness to be” something. For example, a table’s “essence” here refers to its nature as a table, which means it’s fulfilling the proper definition of what is meant by “table.” Its attributes involve of course, features such as its “having legs,” etc. This is dualistic thinking with regard to “external” objects. The false imputation of “grasper” and “grasped” derive from internal thinking which bifurcates the world into “I/it,” “self/other” dualism.
‘Having extinguished (gtan med pa) dual appearance on the external side, [[[bodhisattvas]]] realize grasper and grasped as truly empty, knowing this implicitly by virtue of the manifestation of [[[reality]]] just as it is (ji lta ba bzhin) on the part of experiential awareness which knows inwardly no duality. When there is an ability to destroy the seed of that sort of ‘grasping as true,’ [that seed] is direct knowing which is the gnosis of the Āryan,’
as he teaches this. There are subtle [issues] to be understood (kho rgyu) in these texts.”
What is known explicitly by bodhisattvas is the lack of duality with regard to their own inner consciousness. Implicitly they become aware of emptiness itself. This is known implicitly because they may know explicitly only through their own self-awareness of emptiness; actual śūnyatā is known as a result of this explicit or direct knowledge. The subtle issues referred to here involve whether one’s knowledge of śūnyatā is direct, or whether one views one’s awareness of śūnyatā itself is the direct object of awareness here.
The entical aspect of the dharmdhātu.
[249:4-250:3]] “According to the quotation from the Madhyamakāloka above, that
and if one asks,
It is the gnosis of the Āryan and it is the inexpressible which is seen by an Āryan” from [this passage up to] “and for what are called composite and likewise, what are termed ‘non-composite’ are imputed nominally.
By this doctrine, the direct object (dngos yul) of stainless knowledge is the same entity as the knowledge [itself] which would be the direct object of this knowledge is shown. However, for this chapter, what is meant by the word “Āryan gnosis”and what is meant by the words “what is seen by the Āryan” following that, are by necessity connected (‘grel dgos), and the goal to be attained by gnosis is the perfected [[[nature]]].
If one thinks the self-awareness of gnosis is the direct object - this is incorrect. When, according to that scripture, the following [passage] which discusses the composite and is the imputation of a composite by necessity would therefore be without connection to the perfected [[[nature]]] as well. Otherwise, according to this [passage] from the section of the Madhyamakāloka which refutes the assertions of those who propound [the existence of] entities (dngos sma ba’i ‘dod pa),
“Here, the sphere of knowledge (spyod yul) of the Āryan’s gnosis is the dharmadhātu, which is asserted to be expressed by the [mere] word entity [but which] is the selflessness of all phenomena. Because it demonstrates the way to the goal which is the complete eradication of the basis of the fear of those who cling to entities (mngon par zhen pa rnams); the aim of the scripture is not demonstrating by that word entity the self-aware knowledge asserted by the [proponents] of the Yogācāra [School], however, what is expressed by the word composite is only dharmatā.”
It would be incorrect to be [advocating] the viewpoint (gsungs pa) [of the opponent] along with this reasoning, because of the assertion that only dharmatā is the aim of that, according to the [proponents of] Yogācāra themselves.
The term “entity” referred to in the Madhyamakāloka is discussed here. Composite phenomena (visible, functional entities) and non-composite phenomena (such as space) are imputed nominally to ultimate reality (dharmatā). Some think that the term refers to the inner gnosis of the Āryan itself. This is incorrect. Dharmatā is the basis for all phenomena (dharmas) and is referred to as an “entity” in order to alleviate the fear the term “non-entity” would incite in those who cling to being.
“Those who propound [the existence of] entities” include the proponents of Yogācāra doctrines, as well as those Buddhist schools which propound the existence of external objects, which includes the Sautrāntika, Vaibhāṣika but not the Yogācāra Schools. Furthermore, the term “entity” should not be seen as referring to the self-aware or “intra-mental” consciousness of the Yogācāra Schools, because it is connected to both the object (yul) of Āryan gnosis, which is śūnyatā or “emptiness” (=dharmatā) which is “what is seen by the Āryan,” and the subject (yul can) which is the Āryan’s gnosis itself.
The term “entity” here is only a verbal designation in the Madhyamakāloka - not a reference to a real entity - for according to Madhyamaka thought, śūnyatā is a state devoid of entity (ngo bo nyid med pa). According to lCang skya, the term is used in this text only to avoid provoking antagonism to the relatively negative sounding term “non-entity.”
[250:4-251:1] “Again, it is incorrect to declare the word ‘composite’ as referring to only dharmatā, as the answer to the [proponents of Yogācāra ,” for according to the Madhyamakāloka, for the purpose of refuting such an assertion,
‘It is called ‘composite’ because it is dharmatā which is [the basis of] all composite [[[phenomena]]] without exception [and is called ‘composite’] by virtue of conventional discourse, and is not to be designated [as a composite phenomenon] with regard to all aspects of its reality.’
Teaching this would be incorrect. The ‘composite’ section of those texts, according to Yogācāra [proponents], when they assert that [it refers to] dharmatā only, because it would prove what is [already] established by those doctrines, therefore these [[[sections]]] are a basis for generating confusion (dogs pa).
The way questions arise [is as follows]. According to the Yogācāra system, gnosis exists as the valid cognition which is self-aware which comprehends (‘jal ba) the two methods of setting (‘jog tshul) the ultimate according to this chapter, since it is stainless knowledge and that is self-aware for the necessity is gnosis and the object of that [[[gnosis]]].
“Ultimate” (dam pa) [means] “having effected stainless deep meditative (nyam gzhag) gnosis, and it is “the holy goal” (don dam pa) since it is the object of that, and [those who] are thinking it is not pervaded by only the unchanging perfected [[[nature]]], generate confusion from thinking that stainless gnosis itself would be the final objective of the pure path.”
The two ways of “setting” refer to the manner in which Āryan gnosis in meditation is effected. The two aspects of achieving this supreme goal involve the subjective and objective aspects of this ultimate reality. The subjective (yul can) is ultimate truth, Āryan gnosis itself, or the recipient of the object (yul), which, as stated above, refers to the ultimate, emptiness, or “that which is seen by the Āryan.” Some opponents think that the perfected nature does not pervade the entirety of ultimate truth, but that these two aspects characterize this state..
This is the explanation for the opponent, of the Tibetan, don - “goal, aim” and dam pa, “holy, sublime.” In the Sanskrit this is called, parama - supreme, and artha. - “goal.” The opponent in the text here distinguishes the two aspects of these terms, the “aim” or “goal” aspect referring to the
object which is emptiness, and the “supreme” or “holy” aspect which refers to the subjective awareness which is the Āryan’s gnosis. The opponent here asserts that there are two aspects to ultimate truth: the subjective aspect which is the Āryan’s gnosis and an objective aspect which is emptiness or the perfected nature. Problems with this idea will be discussed in the following passage.
[251:2-252:1] “Generally, to explain the answer for the second one, it is true that if one places as the ultimate goal which is effected by virtue of the second manner of setting by merely being the object of a certain stainless knowledge, however, here, there is no fault, since it is not set up by merely that.
Well, if one wonders just how it is set up, it is by being the valid cognition which makes ultimate examination for that object of that stainless knowledge which is the subject (yul can) for establishing the ultimate goal which is effected by virtue of the second way of setting, to be the ultimate which is finally obtained from examination by that stainless knowledge which is the object of that [[[knowledge]]], and it is necessarily the two phenomena being assembled together [i.e., the subjective aspect, stainless knowledge, and its object which is emptiness which it ultimate truth which comprise the ultimate goal.]
That means, to refute [the opponent’s assertion], elucidating only unchanging, non-affirmingly negated perfected nature as the appropriate [[[object]]]; the subject, stainless gnosis is inappropriate. As established by the self-awareness which effects the experience of that stainless knowledge, generally, if it
is knowledge, it is not dependent upon an other substance for effectuating its own experience, but it is necessarily established by the subjective aspect (‘dzin rnam) which is of the same nature and type (rang) [though it is not identical], and it is an understanding by means of the withdrawal of dual
appearance (gnyis snang nub) by self-awareness which effectuates its own experience of stainless knowledge by reason of being only an inner seeing and a subjective aspect, but, therefore, it is not finally discovered from examination, from either examination which proves or disproves the reality of the object which is stainless knowledge by means of self-awareness. By this reasoning, there is no fault that that gnosis would be the final object of the pure path [for that fault is yours].”
These two aspects of the “ultimate goal” are again, the subjective (yul can) and the objective (yul). The objects of stainless knowledge are many. For example, a Buddha knows the ultimate which is emptiness but also is simultaneously aware of the conventional (e,g., saṃsāra , etc.). The only object appropriate to be called the “ultimate goal” of stainless knowledge is emptiness, the “unchanging, perfected nature.” Some opponents assert that any object of stainless knowledge is appropriate as the “ultimate goal.”
One example given is that of a carpenter. A carpenter may be aware of many things (plumbing, auto mechanics, etc.), however, one is only a carpenter in reference to his activity and knowledge with regard to wood-working. The same is true of “stainless knowledge”: it is only such when seen with regard to ultimate truth which is emptiness. The object of the ultimate goal is not gnosis itself but the object of that gnosis, which is emptiness.
Self-awareness arises with every type of consciousness, from the eye consciousness up to stainless knowledge. This self-awareness does not examine whether it is conscious of seeing “blue” by the eye consciounsess or being aware of the emptiness which is the objective of gnosis. Rather, it arises concomitant to those consciousnesses. It is of the same nature as these consciousnesses, but unlike them, it is not aware of a perceived external, substantial phenomenon, but is “intra-mental,” perceiving only consciousness itself
The self-awareness knows emptiness implicitly, not explicitly.
[252:1-5] “Otherwise, the sense conciousnesses of the ordinary individual would be irreversible (zlog tu med pa), even existing ultimately. Those [[[sense consciousnesses]]] exist [each] with a self-awareness which generates experience, and with regard to the subjective mode (‘dzin tshul) of the self-awareness, there is no abiding in confused corruption, in their mode of cognition, because of being cognition [which takes place] in the extinction of dual appearance.
If one were to explain this in an abbreviated way, in this section [treating] of Yogācāra , even the realization of reality, the perfected nature, is necessarily realization in a mode of negation of the object of negation which is a type of eradication of [the awareness of] a substantial difference of subject and object., however, this is a mere non-apprehension with regard to the substantial separateness of subject and object; it will not be a mere non-abiding error with regard to an object.” It is said. According to the Venerable Omniscient [[[Tsong kha pa]]],
‘On this [point], those Mādhyamika who hold the self awareness is [merely a] verbally designated [[[phenomenon]]] , and that object [which is perceived] by the valid cognition of inherent non-existence (rang bzhin med pa tshad mas) [which is śūnyatā] is held to be established implicitly by the self-awareness which generates the experience of that object, though, since they hold that the self-awareness is [established] in the valid cognition of verbal expression, it is not established by logical knowledge.’
That is what is should be known and this is the meaning of the doctrine.
The self-awareness of sense consciousness would be irreversible because the opponent holds that since the self-awareness perceives pure gnosis which remembers the experience of the reality of emptiness, then that self-awareness is also stainless. lCang skya’s response is that if that were the case, then all self-awareness for eye consciousness, etc., would also be stainless and pure. While it is true that there is a lack of duality in what is known by the self-awareness, which is said to be conscious only of mental phenomena and not of external phenomena, this is a “mere non-apprehension” in the context of intra-mental events.
Accordingly, the self-awareness does not focus an external object, hence it is not aware of emptiness save implicitly, as it is remembered as an experience of attaining gnosis in deep meditation. Even the Yogācāra - Mādhyamika such as Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, who, though acccepting the existence as verbal designation of a self-awareness for consciousness, nevertheless declare it to have only an implicit awareness of emptiness. In this sense, the self-awareness knows emptiness through the means of cognition which involve verbal designation, because emptiness exists thence as remembered experience, not direct experience. The source for this is Tsong kha pa’s commentary on the Madhyamakakarikāḥ. The third of three topics: warding off opposing arguments.
[252:5-253:2] “The third among those [three topics] is the warding off of opposing arguments. If it is said,
‘If it were thus [as stated above], then it would follow that the unchanging perfected [[[nature]]] is an affirmingly negated (ma yin dgag) [[[reality]]] because the stainless knowledge of deep meditation realizes even the knowledge itself which implicitly realizes the perfected [[[nature]]] (khyod rtogs).’
And another opponent [states]: if it is said,
That is not so, because the self-awareness established the subject (yul can) which is stainless knowledge, though there is no need for it to establish the object which is [the reality of] dharmatā. Otherwise, it would follow that in identifying the self-awareness which generates the experience of visual awareness (mig shes) would occur prior to seeing [itself]. And again, another opponent [asserts that] it is incorrect [to think] that this section is engaged in the clarification of the self-awareness. If it is said,
[Then in rebuttal,] it is not so that all scripturally-oriented [proponents of] Yogācāra do not accept the self awareness, and though some [proponents of] Yogācāra adhering to scriptures of the bhūmi collection (sa sde’i), did not admit to a self-awareness, [however,] there is no fault in examining confusion concerning self-awareness in this section, because this section explains the general system of the Yogācāra [School].”
Here begins a sequence of opposing arguments. The first opponent states that if the case is as lCang skya stated it, this would leave emptiness as an affirming negation, because self-awareness establishes the positive existence of gnosis as the subject which experiences the perfected nature of emptiness as its object.
Continuing this line of reasoning, another contention holds that then the self-awareness does not establish stainless gnosis. lCang skya states that there is no need for the self-awareness to establish anything other than subjective experience which is an intra-mental event. There is no need to assert that it establishes an object, save implicitly, through the experience of the primary consciousness which apprehends ultimate truth. If it did establish objects, then it would be reasonable to hold that the self-awareness could establish objects prior to the primary mental consciousness’ ever experiencing it in the first place.
Next, an opposing comment asserts that not all proponents of Yogācāra who adhere to scripture even accepted the existence of a self-awareness. lCang skya concedes that some of those who follow scripture - this means the traditions of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu - that cleave to the five scriptures of Maitreya did reject the concept of a self-awareness. This lineage of Yogācāra is to be contrasted with that of proponents of Yogācāra who cleave to logic, numbering
among them, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti - but this section is involved with setting out the general Yogācāra system and it is thus appropriate to discuss this doctrine which is so central to the Yogācāra tradition overall. The self-awareness has no object but ‘mere mental experience.’
[253:3-254:5] “Again, some will understand, ‘Your assertion is incorrect; though you based yourself on the acceptance of self-awareness, therefore, in that time of profound meditation the stainless gnosis which comprehends (‘jal byed) itself would not be an object for the self-awaress. Accordingly, as [quoted] from the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha,
‘Realize non-grasping! Thereby, one contacts the objectlessness (dmigs pa med pa) [of emptiness].’
And [the Path of Seeing which is] just above whatever [lies beyond] the dissolution (rnam par ‘jig pa) of the composite sentience (‘dus shes) [which is comprised] of the merest consciousness, or from the perspective of the station of the supreme mundane dharma (‘jig rten pa’i mchog gi gnas) which is the samādhi which does not [quite] reach that [[[Path of Seeing]]]” and “After having realized intellectually that nothing other than mind exists, because of this even mind is realized as non-existent,” by these statements, therefore, if one says, “because of the explanation of the non-existence of mental appearance in profound samādhi ” there is no logical fault.
Those [quotes above] explain the characterlessness of appearance to someone who is engaged in meditation of the path to reality, but generally, at that time there is merely mental experience, therefore this is not refuted. Having relied upon these [statements] the profound meditations which are asserted
to be devoid of conceptual strife (spros du med pa) by [proponents of] tenets of the lower [schools], even though in systems of tenets of the higher [schools] these would be [seen to be] accompanied by conceptual strife, and if that is [the case], there is much to express on the reasons and so forth [how] it would not be accompanied by conceptual strife by only that in our system.
And likewise, it is rare for those who explained the doctrines of the Venerable Omniscient [[[Tsong kha pa]]] in prior [periods] to proceed to the essential points and meaning of those doctrines. It seems necessary to know the thorough explanations [found in] the Madhyamakāloka, the Tarkajvāla (rTog ge ‘Bar ba) and among the [[[Wikipedia:literary|literary]]] corpi of the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra [systems], and [where] the establishment of self-awareness occurs in the *Pramāṇavartikka, etc..
By certain earlier explicators, those texts were not seen, and by some, though they saw [those texts], they did not examine [the issues] logically, having held the opponent (phyogs snga ma) and the refutation [of the opponent’s positions] as identical, though too, such explanations are rare, however, by me, I am [able] to state just as much as I am capable (dpogs tshod), and moreover, since in the words of (ji skad du) the luminous (grags) virtuous advisor, the son of the Jina, there exists no confusion in such minds which possess the difficult meanings. If it is not so, then by [whom] else?”
Here, lCang skya answers opponents’ propositions. In the first instance, he states that the self-awareness with regard to the Āryan’s gnosis has no object, because the object of gnosis is objectlessness (dmigs pa med pa). In the state of profound meditation, everything is realized as non-existent, even mind itself. The self-awareness is aware only of a subject - the state of gnosis - and only a mere experience of consciousness takes place.
The opponent asserts that since there is no mental appearance in the state of profound meditation on emptiness, there would be nothing for the self-awareness to perceive. This is not so, responds lCang skya, because the “merely mental experience” does occur. He continues to explain that what one school may consider a state “devoid of conceptual strife’ (spros du med pa), another school may consider a state where some measure of mentation is taking place. There is much to say on this subject, he says, and continues to explain that he is capable of only so much acuity in his explanation. The reader is urged to investigate the issues him/herself by examining the Madhyamakāloka, etc. - works by greater minds than his own, as he puts it.
[254:5] “Moreover, in the words of those sons of the Victor, famed virtuous advisors, those who possess intellects which possess the meaning of the difficulties, since no confusion exists [for them], if that is not so, then for whom else?” Therefore it is taught in this way demonstrating this standpoint value from this examination by greater intellects.
Mind-only eradicates the view of an agentive self. According to Candrakīrti, the realization that the three (Desire, Form and Formless) realms are mind alone occurs at the sixth bodhisattva level, called the Directly Facing (abhimukhi). The aim of this realization is to enable the bodhisattva to eradicate the last traces of thinking of the volitional agent as a permanent self. This is accomplished by the realization that this agent is merely mentation. In spite of the persistence of his critique of the Yogācārin position, he nonetheless has only high esteem for the Laṅkāvatarasūtra wherein this doctrine is perhaps most famously presented.
Refuting the agentive self of non-Buddhist schools. The Buddha elucidated the “mind-only” doctrine for the purpose of refuting the notion of an agent as it is presented in the doctrines of non-Buddhists. This mind-only doctrine was taught to inculcate the fact that in the realm of everyday experience, mentation is preeminent. This should not be taken as a denial of form, however. If this were intended, then one must wonder at his statements in the same sūtra, that desire and ignorance produce that which is merely mind, according to Candrakīrti. .
Memory is no different from other types of cognition. Candrakīrti (MA) disagrees with the idea that consciousness can be self-aware. He claims that memory (smṛtijñāna) is no different from any other type of experience lying within a continuum of thought. This is to say, a memory is subsequent cognition like any other cognition which might not be a cognition of a cognition. The remembrance of a previous experience is as different from the present memory of that experience and is a “reified” object as “past experience” in a manner not dissimilar to the perception of a difference between a presently engaged consciousness and an entity such as a table.
Memory is neither different from nor the same as the remembered event. On the one hand, a memory is different from the actual past experience, on the other, it is not different in the sense that we claim experience of it as our experience. Devoid of a concept of self-awareness however, how could the Yogācārin maintain that other-dependent entities are cognized? Just as Nāgārjuna demonstrated the impossibility of the agent, act and activity being identical, so the same line of reasoning should be applied to self-awareness: How could it be aware of itself and yet avoid being identical to itself? Yet if it is different how could be it be classified as a self awareness?
Fire does not burn itself, nor does consciousness ‘think’ itself. Candrakīrti adds (MAB) that if, according to Yogācāra doctrine, the other-dependent exists substantially empty of self-other distinction, then what consciousness is aware of what other-dependent entity? He applies traditional Madhyamaka reasoning to this problem. The idea that there is self-awareness suffers from the same problem as the classical issues Nāgārjuna elucidates in the MMK. Consciousness can no more be aware of itself than fire could burn itself, or in Candrakīrti’s own example, of the impossibility of a sword edge cutting itself, or other well-known examples of the tip of the finger touching itself, the eye seeing itself, and so forth.
In the absence of external objects, consciousness itself cannot be an object. If we have understood his reasoning correctly, to say that the primary consciousness apprehends an entity which is itself apprehended by this secondary self-awareness, then this makes for a situation whereby the primary apprehending consciousness is made an object of this self-awareness. Given the Yogācārin tenet of the non-existence of external objects, it would seem to be a consequence that the primary consciousness viewed as the object of the secondary self-awareness, would be non-existent.
Identity or difference: memory relative to the original experience. As Huntington admits the argument here is somewhat hard to follow, but the primary focus of his argument is not hard to grasp. His line of argument follows traditional Madhyamaka concerns. Whether or not a self-awareness exists, a memory is distinct from or at least not identical to the original experience. Because it arises subsequently, it is not identical, and just as if it were to belong to the mental continuum of another consciousness, it does not share a direct cause-effect relationship. This relationship would need to be explained, just as does that which pertains to the relationship of fuel to fire. Both seemingly distinct entities are not identical, for they can be conventionally distinguished. However, they are not different because they are intrinsically related.
Subject/object dualism in all forms of consciousness. Candrakīrti notes that both the original event and the memory are similar in that both require a perceiver and a perceived object. This is acceptable as an explanation for the way things are established as conventional truth, but more thorough analysis reveals the ultimate incoherency of this understanding of how consciousness can be said to be “self-aware.” To say “self-aware” is to assert that the agent, activity and act are identical by implication. This sameness is nowhere perceived but simply exists as a reified concept in the Yogācārin system.
The fallacy of infinite regression: cognition of a cognition of a cognition.... Futhermore, this idea suffers from the fallacy of infinite regression. Candrakīrti notes (MAB) if memory involves “memory of an experience of an object” then the self-awareness should experience this, but also, self-awareness should experience itself as well. In this case, one would have the memory of the memory of an experience. If all memory and consciousness is self-aware, this process should continue ad infinitum. He notes a circularity of reasoning in these proofs for self-awareness. It seems that self-awareness is given as a proof of memory and memory is used to prove the existence of self-awareness.
Memory explained by recourse to conventional phenomena. One may account for memory from strictly conventional phenomena. Candrakīrti notes that the existence of a “magic water crystal” cannot be inferred merely from the presence of water, but water may be postulated merely from the fact of clouds heavy with water, raining down. Both memory and self-awareness are unsubstantiated theses. Cognition is given as producing memory, memory is claimed as that which demonstrates self-awareness. But self-awareness is said to be established by means of subsequently arising memories*
Tsong kha pa: memory occurs due to the primary experience. Tsong kha pa of course completely accepts Candrakīrti’s arguments on this topic. He accepts as fact that Candrakīrtidisproves the notion of self-awareness being proven through an argument from memory. According to him, the memory “I saw something” occurs not via any self-awareness, but by the first direct experience of an object and a subsequent memory of that very same object.
The fallacy of two consciousnesses. If two types of conscious awareness were required, then experience and memory would be different. He argues, elucidating Candrakīrti’s stance, that memory would be impossible, for consciousness would be directed at two different objects. If memory and direct experience are different consciousnesses, then it would not be absurd for one person to have another person’s memory.
Tsong kha pa and infinite regression: there is no primary experience. Candrakīrti and Tsong kha pa are agreed here, and both cite the problem of infinite regress with regard to this aspect of the Yogācārin doctrine of self-awareness. In his dGongs pa Rab gSal, Tsong kha pa notes that if a former cognition needs a subsequent cognition to discern it, then does not the subsequent cognition need another cognition to discern it? If this is not the case then it is fair to argue that the initial cognition of blueness does not require a self-awareness to validate it either. This is to reiterate Candrakīrti’s own argument, save that he adds that with this Yogācārin scheme, it would be impossible for consciousness to experience anything other than subsequent consciousness.
The provisional validity of Yogācāra doctrine. That Candrakīrti does not reject Mind-only doctrine can be seen from his words in his autocommentary (MAbh). He acknowledges that the world is comprised of karma and that karma and volitional mentation are mutually interdependent. Nevertheless, while Yogācāra doctrines hold a relative validity, they do not withstand ultimate analysis.
Without external entities, there is no stage upon which the consciousness may act. Huntington explains that among the various schools opposed to the Prāsaṅgika, some (Non-Buddhist) schools maintain that an agent is ultimately God, for others it is action viewed as principle and the Yogācārins define it as merely mind. As he translates from the autocommentary, the sūtras never deny the existence of external form. He employs as an example, the idea of two
kings vying for power in a single realm. These kings symbolize the agent. No matter which king should come to rule the realm, all would depend upon the people of the realm in their role as would-be king. The people symbolize external entities. Apart from these, any agent has no sphere of activity and no role to play, no stage upon which to act. Therefore, there is no doubt that form exists - though its existence is seen only from the perspective of concealing truth. .
Concomitancy cohering mind and form. By ordinary individuals, the five psychophysical aggregates conventionally exist, but by the Āryan meditator in deep awareness, they do not. A concomitancy coheres form and mind. If one does not exist, how then could the other? He asserts that in the Abhidharma corpus, both are affirmed. The idea that in stainless gnosis only a mental substance exists anniḥilates the whole conception of the two truths, in his view.
Consciousness as real, actual ultimately existent fact is refuted. Candrakīrti states that this mind as an actual, real, substantially existent entity has been refuted through a number of reasons. The two truths reveal that, though conventionally, entities exist, ultimately they do not. Mind-only doctrine is intended for those who are strongly attached to entities, thus serving as an upāya, are meant to be further elucidated (neyārtha) in order to demonstrate a deeper, more ultimate standpoint.
As the object of knowledge falls, so falls the knower. Buddhas have demonstrated that once the object of knowledge (jñeya, shes bya) has been rejected, the knower falls along with it, and this refutation of the knower is the reason for refuting the object of knowledge. Maintaining basic Mādhyamika doctrine, discourse on emptiness itself should be taken as definitive (nitārtha), while doctrines elucidating the existence of reality being mere consciousness should be more critically reflected upon and are subject to further elucidation (neyārtha).
It is on this issue of positivism that the two Mahāyāna Schools will more or less agree, even employ more or less similar arguments to establish the ultimately non-entical nature of reality. The subject of this chapter are certain key doctrines of the Śrāvakayāna Schools lCang skya focuses on one school in particular, the Sautrāntika for the refutation of Buddhist “positivism.”
As discussed in the Preface, we are mindful that when the term positivism is used, it has a full range and context of meaning in the West. One thinks of the works of John Stuart Mill, or of the logical positivism of Bertrand Russell. Relative to arguably the majority of occidental philosophies, all three schools of Buddhism are nihilistic, rejecting as they do, the self, “essences” and the like.
In fact, it would be a concern of all three to vigorously avoid being charged with advocating a “self” notion of any sort, notably the selfhood of the person, avoiding the dread puḍgalavāda error which asserted the existence of the individual and became the bane of Buddhist writers. Nevertheless, relative to the Mahāyāna Schools, these schools appear to reify phenomena, as we shall see.
We employ the term “Positivism” as a convenience for Western readers who will be familiar with this term though perhaps not with this alleged Buddhist form of it. Our term samaropa and its Tibetan translation sgro ‘dogs refer to “superimposition,” “exaggeration,” “imputation,” “entical conceptualization” and the like. Therefore one “posits” the existence of entities. As long as the fact that this is a positivism as seen “intra-Buddhism,” we see no problem with the use of this term.
The name “Sautrāntika.” According to Hsuan tsang, adherents of the Sautrāntika School venerated Ānanda as their master. According to certain Tibetan authorities, they were also known as the Uttarīya, because they were superior with regard to the Dharma, however, Bhavya states that they were so named after a dissident Sarvāstivāda scholar named Uttarīya.
The place of the Sautrāntika among the early sects of Buddhism. The Sautrāntika in nearly all sources are the same as the school known as the Saṃkrantivādin, for this school held that the five aggregates transmigrated (Saṃkrānti) from one existence to another. Only the Śāriputraparipṛcchasūtra distinguishes the two.
La Vallee Poussin demonstrated that the Darśtantika denounced as heretics in the Vibhāśa were probably this same school. Vasumitra states that their doctrine approached that of the Sarvāstivāda. He notes that they rejected the doctrine of the individual (puḍgalavāda).
Summary of the Sautrāntika position. To condense in summary form a great doctrinal system such as that promulgated by the Sautrāntika School is a formidable task. Some of their doctrines were roughly as follows. This school affirmed that the uncomposite (asaṃskṛta) does not really exist as distinct entity, but as pure absence. For example, space is the absence of the tangible. Nirvāṇa is the absence of a tendency towards existence; past and future entities do not really exist, for if they were to really exist, then composite entities (Saṃskrta) would exist always and would be hence, eternal, which is not the case. The uncognized (avijñāpti) also does not
Summary of the Sautrāntika position. To condense in summary form a great doctrinal system such as that promulgated by the Sautrāntika School is a formidable task. Some of their doctrines were roughly as follows. This school affirmed that the uncomposite (aSaṃskrta) does not really exist as distinct
entity, but as pure absence. For example, space is the absence of the tangible. Nirvāṇa is the absence of a tendency towards existence; past and future entities do not really exist, for if they were to really exist, then composite entities (Saṃskṛta) would exist always and would be hence, eternal, which is not the case. The uncognized (avijñāpti) also does not truly exist according to the doctrines of this school. Prāpti also does not really exist, for they are perceived neither directly nor by their effect, and hence, an important doctrine of the Sarvāstivāda School was refuted by them.
Continuity and transformation. A series is the Saṃskara of the past, of the present and the future in relation to causality and which constitutes an uninterrupted continuity. Parināma is the transformation of such a continuity which is the continual “becoming otherness” (anyathātva) of the aggregate individual. Causes do not co-exist with their effect. This school holds that the non-composite is not causational, for causes (hetu) and conditions (pratyaya) are taught as impermanent and are by consequence, composite.
Mind and Body. Bodily actions also do not ultimately exist for this school, for these so-called corporeal functions are aspects of volition which place the body in action and thence one calls them bodily actions. Thought and the body and its organs are mutually seminal (semences=bijas). If a person is born in the Arupyadhātu, their form or material aspect is dormant. If however posterior to that, s/he is born into the Desire Realm, for example, the new form proceeds from the mind of the individual.
In particular, lCang skya focuses on this school’s assertion of the “real” or “factual” existence of external entities postulated by this school. For our purposes here however, we will set out elements of this school’s philosophical stance which proves most problematic for the Mahāyānist. This is the doctrine concerning dharmas or for this school, fundamental time/space units the agglomeration of which comprise all perceived phenomena.
Ātmostic phenomena ultimately and actually exist. This school holds that these atomistic units are really existent and that the images we form based on the agglomeration of these units are also true and “uncorrupt” to the extent that they are based on unimpaired perception of aggregate
If a configuration or were a thing in itself, it would be perceived by two organs, meaning that one visual consciousness would perceive the unit and another would perceive the subunits. A configuration is a part of form, which is defined as a particular object of the eye consciousness. Since one sees numerous configurations in a complex configuration, then it would have many forms (rūpa) in the same place, which is impossible. There are then properly speaking, no atoms perceived in a configuration.
An atom is considered to be extended and it comports to spatial division. Atoms touch each other by reason of their extension. (Digdeśābheda-pratighāta). The condition regarding the quality of an object (alambanapratyaya) is the atoms (paramānu) which are agglomerated (Saṃghātita). When visual consciousness is aware of color, it does not perceive atoms but only their agglomeration, since it ascertains the aspect of this agglomeration (tadākaratvāt), and hence one sees a mass of blue rather than atoms of blue. A discussion of these matters can be found below under the subheading, “the self-isolate and the referent category.”
Rejection of atomism by both Mahāyāna Schools. Both Mahāyāna Schools find this highly problematic. For the Mādhyamika scholar, entities are true as perceived - conventionally. They are not true as perceived ultimately. In the case of the Yogācārin, perceived entities are sheer mentation. Vasubandhu’s anti-atomism. While the groundwork for a critique of this type of dharma theory was set out by Nāgārjuna in the MMK, Vasubandhu sets forth a
notable explicit refutation of Śrāvakayāna “atomism” by observing that given that atoms are conceived to have six sides through which to connect to neighboring atoms, then they are not by this fact, ultimately indivisible, for the regions of the atomic dharma or phenomenon are themselves clearly smaller divisions. The problem of the fundamental constituents of our reality for the Cittamātrin is concerned with the Mind, for it is that which discriminates, bifurcates and categorizes reality into entical and discrete particularities. Conceptualized and innate positivism.
[254:5-255:1] “For the first [topic, the identification], generally, both positivism and nihilism are [here] the objects of logical refutation. With regard to positivism, there are two [major aspects]:  the conceptualized and  the innate. [And again,] for the innate [aspect] are the two [features] of grasping at the self of  the individual and  of phenomena. With regard to the latter, [again] are the two aspects of apprehending subject and object as substantially different which will be examined later.”
Now we arrive at lCang skya’s discussion of the manner in which Cittamātrins reject “positivism,” for lack of a better word. The Tibetan term sgro ‘dogs refers to what we are translating as “entical conceptualization,” the idea that what is perceived is real as given. The innate aspect. There are two aspects of this stance, deemed a form of extremism, from the Cittamātrin standpoint: an innate and a conceptualized aspect. The first is “built-in,” and applies to all sentient beings in some form or other. For example, a lion, to hunt prey, has an innate awareness of the “real” or “actual” existence of its prey.
The conceptualized aspect. The conceptualized aspect of positivism refers to positivism involving conceptual thought. This would include something as simple as the thought, “the chair really, essentially exists” on up to the very abstruse philosophical systems which aim to prove the objective, essential reality of entities understood to be “external, different, substantial” entities.
The conceptualized aspect is more easily eradicated. Of the two categories, the conceptualized aspect is considered by far the easier of the two to eliminate. Buddhist traditions affirm that the innate reifying tendency of beings is only eliminated at the Arhat level, according to some schools, or at the highest bodhisattva levels in Mahāyāna Schools.
The innate aspect of positivism is not relinquished until the tenth bodhisattva level whereat the subtle-most self-view or egotistic stance is eradicated. More accessible is a grasp of lCang skya’s analysis of the conceptualized aspect of the mind’s tendency to reify objects with regard to the naive “ordinary individual” and the more subtle form of positivism found in the two Śrāvakayāna [a.k.a. “Hīnayāna”] Schools, the Sautrāntika and Vaibhaṣika. Positivism as the enticalization of phenomena.
[255:1-255:4] “The manner in which one cleaves to the selfhood of phenomena, which is adhering to the establishment of the conceptualized [[[nature]]] by means of its own inherent characteristics, is this. “This form is one of the aggregrate [constituents of a sentient being]” is the essence, and “this form
arises” is the imputation of a particular definition and signifier to that mere essence, and [thus, on this level] the aggregates, etc., are established. However, though, establishing the aggregates, etc., by virtue of their own inherent standpoint or by their own inherent characteristics to that essence, [lies] within the extreme of positivism.
This is an apprehension in the following manner: in this section, positivism will entail cleaving to the selfhood of phenomena. Here, according to the Legs bShad sNying po [where Tsong kha pa] engages in an abbreviated refutation which [accomplishes] the goal (don) of the extensive doctrine by way of warding off the arguments of outsiders, will be restated here.”
The essence and its attributes. There are again, two aspects to conceptualized positivism: an idea of the “essence” and the “attributes” which are imputed to that which initiates conceptualization (i.e. the “essence”). “Form” is taken as the major example, though it applies to all entical conceptualization.
“Form” is the essence or basis for the particular characteristics applied to it, and in this case, “form arises” is one of its signifiers, along with “extension” etc.. “Form” is established in this manner, but not ultimately. This is a Cittamātrin deployment of the concealing truth. However, when one asserts that “form” exists “by way of its own inherent standpoint” or “by virtue of its own inherent characteristics” - this is the extreme of positivism.
Tsong kha pa’s understanding of this topic in the MS. Following will be an elucidation of Tsong kha pa’s clarification of this extremist thinking in the section of The Heart of Thorough Elucidation (LSN), wherein he refutes the thinking of opponents thinking with regard to how the MS is to be understood. By doing this, he establishes the proper understanding of Asaṅga’s thought, in his view. First is an analysis of the Saṃgrāha itself and following this, a logical investigation of the issues.
[255:4-256:1] “Again, if a certain [opponent] should say,
‘By you, form, etc., are incorrectly asserted as the [type of] positivism which is the object of refutation in this section, [i.e., holding] the basis of an essence and particular characteristics as established by means of its own inherent characteristics. It is also incorrect to further assert the [[[existence]] of the] self-isolate for the direct object of words and of conceptualization that manner. [This is so] because it is incorrect to assert along with that the form and so forth which would be the basal isolate for that [[[form]] and so forth].
The first proof. If one establishes the direct object of words and expressions (brjod bya) by means of its own inherent characteristics, then, even the Sautrāntika therefore hold this conceptualization as positivism, because to the Sautrāntika, the assertion of form as the direct object of conceptualization is as a generic image (don spyi) which does not in reality exist. For this reason, it is very improper to assert the selflessness of phenomena by proving their emptiness through merely that [argument].
The second central proof (tsa ba’i rtags gnyis pa grub). When one desires to refute the establishment of form, etc., by its own inherent characteristics, it would be the basal category for those characteristics, therefore it would be nihilism according to this [[[Yogācāra]]] system, since it would not establish the other-dependent [[[nature]]] by means of its own inherent characteristics.’
An opponent’s mistaken notion of the self-isolate. The opponent has a mistaken notion of the self-isolate. He states that positivism is not the object of refutation in this section of the Saṃgrāha. Asaṅga is referring neither to the self-isolate nor to the basal isolate.
Even the Sautrāntika hold the generic image to be positivism. If it were referring to the self-isolate, then the generic image which arises from a composite structure such as form has already been examined and determined to be false from the “lower” schools (as Mahāyānists refer to the Śrāvakayāna Schools): “even the Sautrāntika” who are among those schools Asaṅga claims are guilty of “positivism” due to their dharma theory, hold that this mental generic image is false because it arises from atomic substructures which are actually ultimate.
The opponent’s second argument: the basal referent and the other-dependent. The second proof that positivism is not the aim of the refutation is that if Asaṅga is rejecting the idea that the basal referent as existing by way of its own inherent characteristics, then this would violate the Cittamātrin’s own assertion of the other-dependent nature existing by way of its own inherent characteristics. If this is rejected, then one would be maintaining “nihilism” as analyzed in chapter three.
[256:1-5] In this section, where the Venerable Omniscient [[[Tsong kha pa]]] explains the answer to that, it is not held to be a proof for the Sautrāntika, and not only that, this method of cleaving to the selfhood of phenomena which is the reverse theory (bzlog phyogs) of that, is contradicted in the doctrine of both schools of the Śrāvaka[[[yāna]]]. Further, the identification of positivism according to the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha [is as follows]:
On that [point], the naive, it should be known, are strongly attached to an essence [for a phenomenon] [an essence] which conforms exactly to the name and exactly to the expression [applied to it] according to the five reasons (rgyu lngas) [applied] to entities (dngos la) which [serve] as objects of expression.
Well, with the exception of the Venerable Lama of Myriad Doctrines [[[Tsong kha pa]]], because of great unfirmness [in understanding], awareness (gtol ma) [of the meaning of these issues] has not occurred to many. Therefore, the [[[spiritual]]] Sons of the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa]]], Thu po mKhas grub, with the illumination of the statements (smra ba’i nyi mas), the sTong Thun [[[Chen]] mo], the beautiful eye (sKal bSang mig) for the examination (‘byed du) of a mind
to which appeared the consciousness to which appears the objective by the power of a propensity to express the doctrines of the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha, and the aspect of the appearance by the power of a propensity towards an egotistic standpoint (bdag du lta ba, ātmadṛṣṭi) and appearance to the consciousness due to a propensity towards the limbs of existence, from the three [of them].”
It has been noted that there are two dangers as recounted in the Kathāvatthuppakānam. Logical formulations were intended to avoid two extremes which he locates as the realms of the extreme sceptism to which Śūnyavāda could lead versus the possibility of absorption into Brahminist systems on the other.
Further, Singh continues, Sautrāntika School is anti-idealistic. The fact of the reality of atoms which comprise sense data is enought to distinguish this school from that of the Yogācāra, who do, of course, deny the existence of external objects. He upholds Sautrāntika basic understanding by pointing out that this school’s approach “shakes the foundations” of Yogācārin “Idealism” by its turning away from “mere mentality” in favor of objectivity.
Tsong kha pa’s response. Tsong kha pa explains that Asaṅga is not providing a proof to refute the Sautrāntika position here. He is providing the identification of positivism in the Saṃgrāha. He is simply expressing the fact that “positivism” refers to a naive belief in things existing the way they
lCang skya then proceeds to praise Tsong kha pa’s deep awareness of the issues and the lamp which illumines obscurity in even his own thought, which is the sTong Thun Chen mo, written by one of his foremost disciples, mKhas grub. Naive versus sophisticated positivism.
[256:5-257:1] “The first [issue] is the manner of appearance of appearing by virtue of a propensity towards verbal expression. To the eye consciousness, etc., the mode of appearance and the appearance itself of form, etc., exists as real. Having discerned the clarification of the dissimilarity of that from the Sautrāntika system, [[[mKhas grub]]] engages in a precise clarification of the thought of the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa]]].
If such is [the case], still, when researching the understanding of the great texts, from an inner method (ngang tshul) of the intellect which does not distinguish what is accepted by a child, even though along with being not even a little bit an Āryan, [they] elucidate, dispute and compose holding
themselves, (pur ‘dzin) and it appears that there barely exist (srid mtha tsam) [those] who know the exact explanation of the thought in the myriad doctrines of the [[[spiritual]]] father [and] both [his] sons, since [these] would be like slivers of diamonds (rdo rje tshig) [since they are so difficult to crack].”
mKhas grub elucidates the differences in thinking between Asanga’s description of the type of positivism which characterizes the naive and that of more astute Sautrāntika analysis. To the naive, the mode of an entities appearance to the eye consciousness exists as real because of a conceptual propensity to verbal expression.
lCang skya laments the fact that so many who (erroneously) deem themselves great scholars, have missed the point. They aim, like children, to decipher the difficult points of doctrine which are to them like shards of diamonds, impossible to crack.
Corrupt versus uncorrupt modes of appearance.
[257:1-257:4] “Now, I myself, should express to some small extent the definitive approach. The most important point (shin tu gal che ba’i gnas) for understanding the meaning of the great doctrine of the Venerable Mahātma [[[Tsong kha pa]]] is this. The Sautrāntika hold that an object appearing to the
sense consciousness is not corrupt. An appearance exists as established by means of its own characteristics as a basis for the essence and particularity of form, etc., and the Sautrāntika themselves, accept that [the perception of form, etc.] are not corrupt in that manner.
In this [[[Yogācāra]]] system, that mode of appearance itself is corrupt, and [this system] asserts that mode of appearance is established in an accordingly [corrupt manner] since it is conceptualized later. The reason for refutation in this section is positivism and cleaving to the selfhood of phenomena, and
it is only this doctrine of the omniscient mKhas grub which one needs to identify that mode of appearance in the beginning, since it is difficult for the intellect to engage [this subject] of the way in which the mode of appearance is accordingly [appearing] to the sense consciousness.”
The definitive approach according to lCang skya II. He then attempts to express what he thinks is the definitive approach, to the best of his ability. He identifies the following as one of the most important doctrinal topics of Tsong kha pa’s corpus, employing mKhas grub’s insights.
The manner in which the Sautrāntika cleave to positivism. He states that the Sautrāntika accept that the sense consciousnesses are correct in their ascertainment of the appearance of an entity and that it is the conceptualized
image which appears immediately after sense perception. The Sautrāntika system asserts the “real existence” of external entities. Objects are “out there” (as opposed to being purely mentated realities) and appear to the sense conscousnesses objectively by virtue of their being composed of the fundamental time-space atomic building blocks called “dharmas.”
This tendency to “positivism” in Sautrāntika thought is bolstered by Amar Singh’s appellation in the title of his book, The Sautrāntika Analytical Philosophy. He states that all Sautrāntika thinkers were empiricists. Direct cognition pratyakṣa - which he calls “sensation,” is the foundation of this school’s thought. His study verifies the interpretation above by noting that sensible objects are real, and that denial of sensorial awareness is the “denial of all knowledge.” The five types of objects are real by way of being conglomerations of atoms.
The Cittamātrins: even sense perception is corrupt. Proponents of “mere mentation” themselves hold that even this appearance itself is corrupt. The difficulty is the juncture between the conceptualizing mind and its conceptual object. According to the Yogācāra, even this very process of sensation is corrupt with regard to appehending the way things really are.
[257:4-258:1] “The mode of appearance of those [[[phenomena]]] is this. According to [[[mKhas grub]]], when we see something like a pot by means of mental focus, the belly of the pot is made manifest to the eye consciousness, and not only that, the belly appears as the basis of the verbalized conceptualization which declares, ‘this is a pot.’
Furthermore, the belly is not merely established by the name and signifier, but we call it a pot by virtue of its own standpoint, and this appears as the establishment as a basis for locating (‘jug pa) the signifier.
If one should inquire how [one can be] certain that appearance [occurs] in that manner, [then the response is that,] having become attached (zhen nas) to that mode of appearance to the sense consciousness, later conceptualization declares, “This is a pot.” The conceptualization, verbalization and sense consciousness are certain knowledge; therefore there is no necessity of another continuum but it is elicited bey means of its own power.”
Sautrāntika: immediacy of sense perception. When one sees even simply the belly of a pot, one’s mind immediately thinks, “This is a pot.” “No other continuum” refers to this immediacy: there is no need for another mediating consciousness or cause to inspire this thought in the mind other than this objectively, really existent pot-belly. It is not the case that appearances are simply names and signifiers imputed by the mind onto phenomena.
[258:1-258:4] “Then if that is the reasoning, when others ask, what is the essence of the object of the expression, “This is a pot”? The mode of appearance and manner of attachment (zhen tshul) [are uncorrupt] by virtue of the
reality of the essence of the object. One says, “The belly exists” and “due to the belly, there is a pot;” one would not say, “there is a pot due to nominal imputation.” According to the Legs bShad sNying po,
‘One says, “Form is the essence for that object of the expression we call ‘form,’” and one does not say, “the essence of that object of expression ‘form’ is merely some nominal imputation. Therefore, when conventionally imputing what
one calls ‘form,’ there is a basis for the conventional conceptualization of a blue form, and when one sees an appearance such as this, it appears just as established by virtue of its own inherent reality and not as established nominally or by a signifier.”
Cleaving to the establishment [of a phenomenon] as it appears, just as that blueness, for it is positivism which cleaves to the establishment by its own inherent characteristics in nominally imputing, ‘form exists for blueness’ and this statement is the meaning.
Does one strictly imagine entities? Again, to ordinary perception, things are as they appear and names attached to things seem to have an inherent connection to them. In distinction to what is (wrongly) commonly understood to be the Madhyamaka position, this view asserts that it occurs to no one to think that entities exist by imagining them into their particular existence. This seems absurd.
There must be a basis for phenomena. Unlike the Yogācāra position however, the basis is not the “dependent-upon-other” which serves as the basis for all perceived entities, for this second of the three natures is only fully realized when one has “emptied” it of conceptualization. For “positivism,” the basis for entities is their appearance just as they appear. Means of cognition (pramāṇa, tsad ma) validly establish entities.
For Singh, this Sautrāntika School is “anti-sceptical,” by which he means, among other things, anti-Madhyamaka. He interpretes Madhyamaka thought as asserting that no definite knowledge is possible and nothing is true. This type of
thinking is self-contradictory, undermining the very foundation (logic) upon which it stands. While we do not agree with his interpretation of Madhyamaka thought, the above aids the interpretation of Sautrāntika thought as related by lCang skya II.
[258:4-259:1] The reason Sautrāntika [[[scholars]]] accept this mode of appearance as correct [is this]. Since form, etc., is an external object, it is of a different nature than the awareness [of it], and it is [therefore] truly established. Therefore, when [an external object] appears to the non-erroneous
sense consciousness, it of necessity appears by virtue of its own standpoint, for that mode of appearance is the basis of nominal designation since it necessarily appears just like it exists, by way of its own standpoint. Therefore, it exists as a mode of appearance by means of focus (gtad pa) upon an external object.
Because of this, that mode of appearance is not only uncorrupted, (ma ‘khrul ba) since the conceptualization of the mode of appearance [occurs] later, likewise the attachment (zhen pa) and mode of apprehension (zhen tshul) are
unmistaken (ma ‘khrul ba), although the conceptualization of that entity (ngos yul ) which is the referent of the word vase [which is a mental] is not established by its own inherent characteristics and that this is the sole superimposition; these statements are what is asserted [by Sautrāntika scholars].”
Sautrāntika: the fundamental difference of consciousness and its object. According to the Sautrāntika School, appearances are based on the fact of external objects, which are fundamentally different in nature from the sense consciousness which first acquires raw sense date. The sense consciousness acquires data based on this factual existence of external entities, and in this sense what it perceives is as it appears, and serves as a true basis for
sense consciousness is uncorrupted, meaning what it perceives is not itself a superimposition of the consciousness onto the “external world,” as Yogācārins will maintain, and further, the mode of fixation or apprehension is unmistaken, meaning that the immediate term we apply to “vase” is also based on fact.
Sautrāntika: the generic image is not ultimately established. The only aspect of consciousness which the Sautrāntika maintain is not truly established in fact is the conceptualization at a later time when the entity is not present to initiate first the sense consciousness into perceiving the entity, and second, the apprehending
consciousness into applying a name and mental image to it. The third process refers to the generic image one employs to think abstractly about a “pot” or “form.” This is a “mixture” or “corruption” which fuses past awareness of entities into one generic image, which is a relatively false picture when compared to the image one perceives from direct sense experience.
[259:1-259:5] In this system, since an external object is not established, an external object arises as an appearance from consciousness by virtue of habituation towards external objects. On that [point], endlessly [one is aware that] “this blue exists as this blue,” and so on, again and again, and an
appearance as a basis for verbalization of such [a thing] occurs by virtue of a propensity for verbal expression. Accordingly, that appearance of form is merely of the nature of inner consciousness, but because of this, it is not an external object which is unrelated (‘brel ba med pa) [to consciousness] having been proven (gtan nas) as such. That appears as a basis of nominal designation, however therefore, it is an appearance by virtue of habituation towards inner verbal expression.
That mode of appearance is not proper as a mode of appearance which appears by virtue of its own inherent standpoint, as an independent object for establishment nominally and through a signifier. [It follows] from that, that otherwise, that sort of form, etc., being a basis for verbal designation,
even though it would not proven dependent upon consciousness, and if that is the case, that form and the consciousness would be substantially different; this is incorrect by way of refutability through many reasons.” and these statements [are those this system] accepts.
The Yogācārin position concerning external entities: propensities and habituation. Again, we have a restatement of the Yogācārin position. “External objects” according to this school, arise through the maturation of seminal mental propensities towards their perception. They appear as the basis of our thought and nominal designation of them, however, were they truly external and independent, this would lead to the conclusion that the object and the
consciousness which apprehends it are of fundamentally different natures. The place wherefrom propensities arise is the basal or ālaya consciousness. These propensities are seminal potentialities which lie latent in the basal consciousness and “mature” or “ripen” when causes and conditions permit.
[259:5-260:1] “[With regard to] those [points], according to the Legs bShad sNying po,
‘There is for the Śrāvaka [Schools], this very acceptance of the tenet of cleaving to the establishment by means of its own inherent characteristics of form, etc., on which essence and particularity are nominally superimposed and which is positivism, which is the counter-thesis (zlog phyogs) of that [position taken by Yogācāra scholars]’
‘That manner of apprehension is held to be correct by the two [schools] which assent to the existence of external objects, however, since they assert that the self-isolate, which is the object of verbal expression, is superimposed conceptually, (rtog btags) but then the basal isolate [or referent object is said to] emerge inherently characterized; and how are [these two isolates] the same? This is the thought [of Tsong kha pa].”
The Yogācāra position: no external entities. Basically, this passage by Tsong kha pa reiterates themes elucidated by lCang skya above. The Yogācārin position is a position opposite to that of the two schools which assert the fundamental, factual existence of external objects. This thesis is of course in particular opposed to the Yogācārin doctrine of the substantial non-differentiation of subject and object.
Agreement of all schools of Buddhism: the generic image is a false construct. There are two types of objects of expression (brjod bya): the self isolate and the basal isolate. These two schools (Yogācāra and Sautrāntika, and thus all Buddhist schools) will affirm with their Mahāyāna counterparts that the
rang ltog or “self-isolate” which is the generic term (sgra spyi) or generic image (spyi don) which is conjured up in the mind when one sees the belly of a pot and thinks, “this is a pot” or the image one has when one mentally visualizes a pot separate from any concrete, visible and specific example of a
pot, agree that this is “imputation by thought” and thus illusory. Buddhist disagreement concerning the referent object. However, the two major systems (both Mahāyāna and Śrāvakayāna schools) disagree about the basal
isolate (gzhi ltog) which is an actual pot experienceable by direct perception. This pot is actual, real, fact, according to the Śrāvaka Schools, while it too is imputation or superimposition arising from habituations as “seeds” in the sub or basal consciousness, at least according to the Yogācāra School.
[260:1-2] Therefore, the manner of assertions of both the Sautrāntika and Yogācāra Schools are dissimilar, and the [issue] rests only on whether or not form, etc., itself and the apprehending awareness are [considered] substantially different.
When one understands the issues in this way, then it is also easy to know the way to enter into [the doctrine of] consciousness-only by this method of emptiness, and then even the logical refutation of positivism according to the teachings of the Saṃgrāha and its method of refutation are easily known.”
The final distinction for positivism: the existence or non-existence of external objects. Here we have the pivotal issue by which lCang skya has the Yogācāra School class the Śrāvakayāna Schools as “positivism.” The two schools clearly are to be distinguished primarily as to whether or not the existence of external objects is asserted.
The two extremes in Buddhist thought - according to the Yogācāra - have been laid out. The Madhyamaka system is said to deny any basis whatsoever for phenomena, asserting a mere nominalism of sorts. The Sautrāntika position, which is though hardly “positivist” or “realist” in a Western sense by virtue of its assertion that the generic image is
indeed illusory superimposition, is nevertheless realist from the point of view of the other two schools. Within the Buddhist framework of thought - at least according to both Mahāyāna Schools - this system is one touting what we are translating as “entical conceptualization.”
‘In this section, in the same appearance to a sense consciousness which originates from firm habituation, the object of such a mode of appearance  exists established by its own inherent characteristics as other-dependent and it  exists in [the nature of] superimposition from its mere establishment by name and signifier, and  as a strictly [intramental] conceptual imputation [as an object] which cannot be established as existent even by means of name and signifier, thus [a perceived object] is explained as existent in this third of three parts.
Among the four conditions, Asaṅga and his brother [[[Vasubandhu]]] held the habituation towards similar types (rigs mthun) to be a causal condition (rgyu rkyen, hetupratyaya) [in their] elucidation [of these issues]. This may appear to be the unsurpassable, excellently clear intention (dgongs pa) of the Mahātma [[[Tsong kha pa]]], however, there are
individuals who mainly repeat the words of the texts, who may recite the text a hundred or a thousand times, though indeed, it appears difficult to generate certainty in the full measure of the complete elucidation [as occurs] in [many] explanatory [treatises].”
Yogācāra: the three aspects for the existence of an apparently external object. This passage explains, according to mKhas grub, the three aspects for the existence of an object. This does not refer to all of the three natures, for in the final, perfected nature, one attains to objectlessness (dmigs pa med pa). As we have read above, an object
has establishment by means of its own characteristics at the level of being enmeshed-with-other. It has a bare, basic establishment as verbal expression at the level of the conceptualized nature, though at this level it is not established “by means of its own inherent characteristics” but by mere imputation or superimposition.
Finally, the third of these three parts refers to the existence of an object as strictly imaginary, purely a mental concoction with no connection to an other-dependent nature aiding the generation of this third, completely fictitious
object. Among these sorts of objects one must include the famous “rabbit’s horn” or “tortoise’s hair” - classical examples regularly employed in Buddhist philosophical works to illustrate the existence of that which does not by definition, exist.
Habituation towards similar types of object. The “habituation towards similar types” (rigs mthun) refers to the fact of similar types of objects engender verbal reference to other objects of a similar kind. One may see, in our example, only the belly of a vase. Because the belly is commonly associated with
vases, one concludes, “This is a vase” when in reality, upon further reflection, one might wish to conclude that it would be better labelled a “bowl” or a “cup.” That idea, according to the text, is allocated by Asanga and his brother Vasubandhu to the classification of the four conditions under the sub-heading “causal condition,” (hetupratyāya) because the similarity of one thing to another becomes a cause for associating the two.
[260:5-261:2] “Since the logical points of the doctrines of the Bodhi[[[sattva]]]bhūmi and the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha are the same with regard to elucidating the [[[Yogācāra]]] method of refutation [of positivism], which is the second [topic], and is [thus given] as follows. According to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasamgrāha,
 ‘Prior to a name, intellection does not exist.  Because of the multiplicity [of names], therefore [an entity] is not mixed-up with [many entities] and  it would establish a contradiction that that [entity’s] nature is [both a] multiple nature and an adulterated nature’, as it is taught.’
Among the three logical [[[reasons]]], the first is [as follows]. A pot belly is the subject. It would follow that [the pot] completely does not depend upon the sign (rda) [which is the pot belly] which is set up (‘jog pa) as the basis of the verbal expression “pot,” because that [pot-belly] is established by virtue of its own inherent reality (gnas lugs) which exists as the basis of such a verbal expression [i.e., in connection with “pot.”]
If that is asserted, then it follows that the arising in the intellect of the thought “this is a pot” emerges independent of the sign which is that [pot-belly which serves as signifier for “pot”]. If that is accepted, it follows that there arises in the intellect the thought, ‘this is a pot’ from merely seeing the pot-belly even though prior to this there is no imputation of the word ‘pot.’”
Three principal arguments establishing the imputation of names. These are central points establishing the Mind-only perspective in the MS. lCang skya will address each issue more extensively, so we shall take them in turn in successive paragraphs.
Prior to a sign, no intellection exists. The first issue is to be understood as follows.  Before one ascribes a name to a perceived phenomenon, the intellectual distinguishing of it does not exist. This pot-belly is our continuing example. When one glances at a part of a pot, in this case the belly, then from this, an image emerges in one’s mind of some sign that “this is a pot.”
The logical structure of the argument here is somewhat terse and hard to follow. It may be verbally expressed explicitly or simply that the signifier of a pot may arise as part of the intellection of the pot-belly as denoting a “pot.” If the belly is demonstrated to be existent by virtue of its own inherent reality and not simply imputedly, then it should not form the basis for the expression “pot” for both should exist inherently. If the pot arises in the intellect devoid of imputation and so does the pot-belly, then to state “this is a pot” based on observing the pot-belly is impossible. Therefore, prior to the name or signifier, intellection does not exist.
[261:2-261:4] “The second reason [is as follows]. Furthermore, there is no approach to the epithets, “powerful,” “widely traversing” to the same individual. Locating (‘jug pa) those epithets by virtue of the standpoint [that
they are] functional entities for that [same] individual would result [as a consequence] through establishing this by means of its own inherent standpoint as a basis for locating those names to that individual. If that is asserted, then to that [same] individual, it would follow that there would be many standpoints gnas pa even to [one] object which would not correspond to (ma bzhin du) [each] name.”
Many names equate to many entities. The idea here is that if names correspond to objects on a one-to-one basis, then for each of these epithets of Brahma there should be either a different Brahma for each activity for which the epithet was received, or a different aspect of Brahma within Brahma, so to speak, which corresponds to each epithet.
The incoherence of sphoṭa theory. This idea lies in opposition to a view of language and words prevalent among Vedic Schools of philosophy, the sphoṭa theory. This idea asserted that words emerge spontaneously due to the inherent nature of the objective referent. This is in contrast to the idea, in particular elucidated by Dharmakīrti of apoha whereby words merely “cleave away” what an entity is not rather than inherently emerging from the entity’s essence. In this case, to say that Brahma is “widely striding” is to say that he is not widely swimming nor weakly striding.
[261:4-6] “The third reason [is as follows]. When one applies an identical name [shared] in common, say, to two individuals, there is an [unwanted] consequence of locating those by virtue of the enticality (or actuality) of that name to those two [[[Wikipedia:individuals|individuals]]], which is the result of establishment by virtue of its own inherent standpoint as the basis for applying that same name to those two individuals. If that is asserted, it would follow that one
object is applied to whatever that same name to those two. If that is accepted, it would follow that those two individuals would be mixed up into one [[[mental]]] continuum. Since this reasoning is even proven by the implicit
[proofs known as prasaṅgas or consequential logic] by all three arguments, then as a result of those errors, it is not established by its own inherent characteristics as a basis for the location of the verbal expressions referring to entities.”
Point three: a single name applied to several entities. If one ascribes enticality and one-to-one correspondence between name and entity, then it would follow that two persons with one name, in this case, then if they are inherently or intrinsically their “essence” (in this case defined as their mental continuum) should be identical.
Syllogism and consequential reasoning. The type of argumentation employed here is rang rgyud or svatantra - arguments which stand alone to demonstrate logical proofs. This is a type of syllogism which has these three parts:
1) the subject, the 2) mark and 3) predicate.
lCang skya’s point is that these three proofs are easily accomplished by the Prāsaṅgika approach. No one will deny the absurd results arising from this type of theory of language when put into the context of this framework. In consequential or Prāsaṅgika logical discourse, one need not revers the mark to the predicate and predicate to mark, for implicitly, by stating the mark, one establishes the predicate.
‘When the posterior conceptualization of the term for pot [arises] from the existence of the pot-belly which is prior, then when that name is not [understood as] imputed, then the intrinsic essence of that object would not exist. However, when not imputed, even in the posterior conceptualization for the existence of the essence, there would arise in the intellect the thought ‘this is a pot’ even prior to the [supposedly] unimputed name.’
And thus this [view] is refuted.”
Opposition to the conception of a “basal” consciousness: the Bodhicittavivāraṇa. The notion of this basal consciousness was vigorously rejected by notables of the Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka. If we accept it as authentically Nāgārjunan, the Bodhicittavivāraṇa presents the most direct and polemical attack on this notion. Agreement among the Madhyamaka Masters: the basal consciousness is illusory. Opposition continues through the writing of Candrakīrti and Tsong kha pa. Tsong kha pa cites Bhāvaviveka’s opposition to this sort of fundamental consciousness.
Candrakīrti: logically, ultimately there is no such thing as potentiality. Candrakīrti (MA) sets out the Yogācārin position which he contends postulates the consciousness of blue arising from the potentiality to perceive blue, which has as its source, its own cognition. Candrakīrti relates the Yogācāra position as maintaining that the perception of blue arises from the seed of this potentiality to perceive blue apart from any externally apprehended “real” or “actual” blue.
The blind would see blue. Again, in his Prāsaṅgika formulation of this theory, “blue” arises not from an external object. As part of his Prāsaṅgika response, he notes that if blue appears from the seed of an inner consciousness, then why does not a blind man also perceive the existence of blueness?
Candrakīrti (MA) rejects this whole notion of the ripening of propensities towards certain habitual actions. Concomitant to the Yogācārin thesis of the arising of, in our text, a consciousness of blue being dependent upon its emergence from the basal consciousness is strictly dependent upon a notion of
potentiality. Potentiality is an erroneous notion, ultimately. He states that objects which have already been produced cannot possess potentiality for existence, neither could the opposite possibility, that unproduced entities could have a potential for existence. A basis of a qualification cannot exist separated from that which qualifies it and by which it is known. If that were so, one might presume, as he puts it, that there might be potential for the son of a barren woman.
The inefficaciousness of Yogācārin meditation: the basal consciousness as “hindrance.” As Candrakīrti states, Yogācārins do negate a substantially existent self, but assert that the basal consciousness exists by means of its own inherent characteristics. Their meditations on the lack of a substantially existent self or “soul” are not efficacious however because they have not eradicated the notion of a basal consciousness which is the repository of habitual propensities towards the perception of form, etc., as presented by lCang skya.
Tsong kha pa: the difficulties of no doctrine concerning a basal consciousness. Tsong kha pa admits that inborn propensities are difficult to interpret in the absence of a doctrine concerning a repository of consciousness. Tsong kha pa (TKP) adds that when blue arises in a dream of one who is possessed
of good vision, then it should arise in the consciousness of a blind man who is awake. Along with Candrakīrti, he understands the Yogācārin position to maintain that the blind man’s inability to perceive blue arises not from his lack of an eye, but rather from the latent but unmanifest potentiality for the arising of this perception.
Tsong kha pa quotes Candrakīrti with regard to the lack of necessity of a basal consciousness. For the Prāsaṅgika, ultimately, nothing ceases. An entity or event which has ceased, has only apparently or conventionally ceased. Since this is so, it can still be efficacious, its subtle influences are still felt.
The “interpretable” nature of the doctrine of the basal consciousness. For Candrakīrti as for Tsong kha pa, a basal consciousness is an “interpretable” rather than definitive doctrine. Tsong kha pa quotes from Candrakīrti’s autocommentary (the MAV) to establish this. The basal consciousness is a provisional doctrine the intention of which is to initiate the elimination of the notion of a naive reality of external objects as this idea might exist for certain would-be disciples of the Mahāyāna who cling ardently to the existence of such.
The evidence for this is cited by Tsong kha pa (LSN) in that most central of texts which establish the Yogācārin standpoint: the Laṅkāvatarasūtra. Therein one finds the explanation the Buddha gives to Mahāmati that the “inner meaning” of all his doctrines point to emptiness, including that central tenet of the Prāsaṅgika School, niḥsvabhāvavāda, or the “doctrine of non-self-entity.”
Both Mahāyāna Schools are in agreement about the concrete, real, actual, etc., existence of atomistic dharmas understood in the “positivistic” or reifying manner lCang skya described above. The disagreement about the precise nature of external objects hinges on the root source of all aspects of the “great debate” between the two schools: the nature of consciousness.
“A great Yogin without learning is like one with mutilated hands climbing a craggy cliff. Thus, it is said that one who wishes to be a great yogin without any study is like a man with his fingers cut off trying to climb to the peak of a high mountain.
There is a level at which the disputes between the two schools can to some extent be summed up generally by the above passage. The ‘two extremes’ of Mahāyāna Buddhism can from one perspective be seen as an overemphasis on praxis to the detriment of theory or vice-versa. To the extent that these disputes involve a dispute over the primacy of theory versus praxis, the two schools can be viewed as representing a polar tension which exists, arguably, in all religions. We will touch upon this issue below. A major aim of our conclusion is to tentatively answer the question: are the two schools essentially identical or essentially different? Or both? Or neither?
I think it is clear that at this point the fact of the distinctiveness of the two schools has been effectively demonstrated in spite of the fact that much more could have been stated.
In passages following, we will set out the Mind-only School position as lCang skya demonstrates it and conclude with a discussion of various authoritative presentations by modern thinkers about the nature of the relationship of the two schools. Some views affirm the harmonious aspect of their relationship, while others emphasize the distinctive qualities.
The last three chapters demonstrated primarily negative proofs for the Yogācāra position. Rejection of nihilism and positivism leave one with the Middle Path as construed by the Mind-only School. What remains to be considered is a positive demonstration of the definitive truth of the Yogācārin system. This lCang skya does through discussion of the four “complete investigations” and the four “complete knowledges.” Through this four-fold analysis and conclusion, respectively, a disciple is led to firm, positively established fact of the truth of Yogācārin doctrine.
[262:1-263:1] “By means of the the third, is the actual manner of entry into the reality of the Consciousness-only School and is the explanation in particular of the reasoning (rigs pa) which refutes the substantial difference of subject and object (gzung ‘dzin).
[With regard to] the first [of the four investigations - the complete investigation of the object (don yong su tshol ba)], furthermore, entry into the Consciousness-only [School] is emptiness throughout of a substantial difference of subject and object by way of this manner of emptiness which was just immediately fully explained as elucidated as according to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha and the Bodhi[[[sattva]]]bhūmi and it is taught also by the Venerable Father [[[Tsong kha pa]]] and his [[[spiritual]]] sons [rGyal tsab and mKhas grub].
Having relied upon them, continuing on, a certain [opponent] among some scholars explains that there is the selflessness of phenomena which is the emptiness of establishment by means of its own inherent characteristics as the basis of attachment which conceptualizes the cleaving to the self of form, and the selflessness of phenomena which is empty of the substantial difference of cleaving to the selfhood of form; the former is more coarse than the latter which is more subtle.
[According to another] certain [opponent],
On that [point], even both [types of selflessness] are the unchanging perfected [[[nature]]] and are the subtle selflessness of phenomena; this appears to be the intention of the [great scholars of the] Mahāyāna and the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa]]]. It appears that the category of the difficulty or ease of inner realization (nang gsas kyi rtogs) does exist.
According to the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha,
‘When one does not see as characteristics of an object an essence along with particularity, one enters into mere consciousness in realizing (rnam par rtog pa) the mental appearance of the object and its referents (yi ge) by means of the the four complete investigations and the four complete knowledges which [apprehend] purity, [[[reality]]] just as it is.’
Here, as stated above, is the positive approach to entry into the Mind-only system as presented by lCang skya. The first of the four investigations examines the emptiness of the substantial difference of subject and object, and these are presented in the MS and the BB as well as in the myriad texts of Tsong kha pa, rGyal tsab and mKhas grub.
The first “opponent” suggests that the two types of the selflessness of phenomena - one conceptualized and the other, innate, i.e., the awareness of even the sense consciousnesses that there is no fundamental existence of subject and object - that the former of these two is a more coarse type of selflessness of phenomena and the latter, the innate, is a more subtle type of selflessness of phenomena. This idea is to be rejected.
The next opponent states that both types of selflessness the unchanging, perfected nature, or pariniṣpannasvabhāva also also referred to in its perceived form as the perfected characteristic pariniṣpannalakṣana - are extremely
subtle. This is the thought of the Venerable Tsong kha pa. lCang skya agrees that rather than the coarseness or subtlety of the selflessness, it is the relative difficulty or ease of inner realization of the two types of selflessness which is at issue.
When one has sought the end result of the four investigations, one enters into “consciousness-only” in viewing both words and objects as merely mentation. At this point, one attains to reality “just as it is” which is ultimately pure. The innate aspect of realizing the selflessness of phenomena is the more difficult, and is attained to at only the highest among the bodhisattva levels.
[263:1-263:4] “The way of entry into the cognition-only [system], is this. When refuting establishment by it own inherent characteristics, that basis for conceptualized attachment and the standpoint of nominal verbalization for the phenomena from form on up to omniscience [with regard to all] aspects, through the earlier explanation of the three reasonings in that manner, having relied upon the name which initiates [[[verbal]]] expression, the object which
is the object of expression, and the connection (‘brel pa) of the name and object, and having identified (ngos nas) its manner of existence (gnas tshul) and that object as the particularity and essence of the object of expression, having appeared established in this way, the conceptualization of the mind of attachment is confusion in the manner of [its] apprehension in that manner.
Therefore, the object of attachment (zhen ba’i don) does not exist just as it appears. Blue, etc., since it is fully understood out of confusion, [i.e.] that form, etc., exist as cut-off and at a distance (gyang chad du) and
externally. For the manner of attachment of inner awareness, since it is conceptualized in that manner, it is only on the part of appearance (snang cha) which is internal, but, from that, an object as [“]other[“] does not exist; this is entry into cognition-only, which is the non-duality of subject and object in thought.”
Here begins this positive establishment of the doctrine of Mind-only, Consciousness-only or Cognition-only, all of which are here referred to virtually synonymously as a convenience, by the term Yogācāra. Having rejected possible ways in which objects might exist (“by virtue of their own standpont” or “by means of their own inherent
characteristics,” etc.), all of this is pulled together by means of the four thorough investigations, which would not be established logically apart from the prior refutation of positivist or nihilist approaches.
These four categories are the subject of the investigations: the name, its object and dependent upon these two, the “essence” and particularity imputed to these. The way these are normally conceptualized is “confusion” meaning that mental attachment to objects seen as having names inherently tied to them, and both name and object together maintaining inherently existent essential and particular qualities.
Seeing these four elements of phenomena as “cut-off” from oneself, and “at a distance” is an internal mental confusion, for things only appear in this manner, for objects as “other” than or different from one’s own mind are falsely construed. Each of these four elements are recapitulated by means of the quotes from the MS and BB below.
‘...as entry by means of the four knowledges and the four investigations. A name is not imputed by virtue of its own real standpoint (gnas lugs) for its object, is imputation only. Therefore, a name as an object of expression is adventitious (glo bur), as one investigates.’
and according to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha,
The investigation of names. Here then is the first of the four investigations, the investigation of names. That a name is “adventitious” means that it is temporary and somewhat capriciously applied to an object. Names are simply “slapped on” through mere imputation or superimposition, not because of some inherent quality of the object that elicits a particular name over another.
The BB concurs: bodhisattvas see names as merely names and nothing else, i.e., they regard names as strictly illusory, with no further claim to reality except in their function as an aspect of the conceptualized nature.
The MS phrases this differently but maintains the same point. A name is stricly mentally conceptualized and has no reality apart from consciousness. Names are “mental composites” one might say, made up as they are of further “mentally constituted” syllables and letters.
[263:6-264:2] “The complete investigation of the object [is as follows]. This is investigating whether or not that object is established from its real standpoint or beginninglessly as a basis of application (‘jug gzhir) for that name. Furthermore, just as was [explained] earlier [with regard to a name], it is in an adventitious way a basis of application for that.
According to the Bodhisattvabhūmi ,
According to the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha,
The investigation of the object. Basically the points to be made about the status of the object to which names are applied are the same as those to be made concerning the name itself. “Objects” are not established inherently “from their own side” or “objectively” (so to speak), but again, are adventitious - “temporary,” more or less randomly distinguished, as in the distinction made in arguments above concerning the pot-belly in relation to a pot.
An “object” (don) is that upon which one superimposes a name, rather than a permanent, “functional,” entity (dngos po), “beginninglessly” a basis for the application of the appropriate names. It is strictly a mentally expressed
reality, which relies upon composite elements as do names. When one refers to objects, one may distinguish the syllables with which one refers to the object as “pot” or “pot-belly,” for the name and object are linked, though conceptually they may be distinguished.
[264:2-264:4] “The investigation of the conceptualization as essence [is as follows]. Having relied upon the mutual connection of the object which is the object of expression and the name which effects expression, [this is] investigating whether or not there is a standpoint by virtue of reality with regard to even the connection or
juncture of [both] the object of an expression and that which effects the expression. When, having investigated [the issue] accordingly, one conceptualizes [this] as mere imputation, as not established by virtue of reality (gnas tshod) as the essence of what is to be expressed for that name.
[264:4-6] “Investigating the conceptualization of particularity [is as follows]. Having relied upon the mutual connection of that which effects expression and the object of expression, [this is] investigating whether or not it is established by virtue of its own real standpoint (gnas tshod) as a basis of conceptualization of the inherent particularity for that object. One regards as merely imputation, unestablished by its own inherent standpoint even that, by investigating it that way.
According to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha,
The last two are demonstrated together.”
Finally, comes the investigation of the particular or “distinctive qualities” of an “entity” or a phenomenon essentially conceived. “That which effects expression” is a name and the “object of expression” is the entity conceptualized mentally. Dependent upon a conceptualized or mental connection of name and object, essence and here, particularity arise. This too is “unestablished by its own inherent standpoint.”
This distinctiveness (bye brag tu as the BB states it) or particularity (khyad par du in the words of the MS) is, like the above four topics, existent as mere imputation only. Finally, lCang skya notes that these two are to be analyzed and included together, for both are dependent upon the prior connection
between the name and its object. After one has nominally designated the name “circle” to, for example, a perception of the moon, one may assert “roundness” as the essence of that circle and “this circle arises” as a characteristic, attribute or particular feature of that circle. Prior to this connection of name and object, to assert the essential or particular is not possible.
[264:6-265:2] “Accordingly, by the four investigations, a name and object are the basis of expression and having relied upon the connection of name and object, there is investigation of the imputation of distinctiveness and the imputing of essence, and having relied upon thorough, logical investigation accordingly, the four knowledges [arise], when one disestablishes [the above as existent] by virtue of their own inherent standpoint those four [aspects investigated], the complete knowledges [regard them] as mere imputation.
With regard to the the manner of [acquiring] this knowledge, [first,] it is through a generic image at the time of the [[[paths]] of] Accumulation and Preparation, and as both direct knowledge [and as generic image] exist at the time of the Āryan [on the path of Vision].
The Four Investigations establish the Mind-only position negatively. It is clear then that the Four Investigations aim to demonstrate positively the lack of inherent existence of the name, object, essence and particularity of any phenomenon, to demonstrate that all phenomena and all aspects of phenomena are mentalized imputation, mere conceptualized “realities.”
At the point a sentient being enters the first of the five paths, the “Path of Accumulation” (sambhāramārga, tshogs lam), these ideas are merely “generic images,” i.e., one may have acquired an intellectual awareness of the arguments stated above. Still, the idea that names, objects, essences and
particularities are strictly imputed remains a “generic image” for that person. When a being has progressed to the third of the five paths, the “Path of Seeing,” (darśanamārga, mthong lam) attaining the status of an “Āryan” in Mahāyānist terminology, then beyond a mere generic image, it is said that a bodhisattva attains to a “direct perception” of the fact of these aspects of a phenomenon’s existence as “mere imputation” and can see the name, object, essence and particularity for what they are, i.e., mere mentated, conceptualized phenomena.
‘If one asks, “What are the four complete knowledges as purity, [i.e. reality] ‘just- as- it-is’ (ji lta ba bzhin du), “it is ‘The complete knowledge exactly and properly would be or the investigation of the name,’ etc.”, and the remaining three [[[elements]], object, essence and particularity] are conjoined together (sbyar ba) also in the same way.’
‘Therefore, since it is stated that it is as well regarding as strictly (zad pa nyid) mere mentalized expression, this complete knowledge of the investigation of the name, and through stating also that the imputation as a particular and essential object along with the name, is the complete knowledge of the investigation of the object, and when one does not see the [[[objective]]] characteristic of the object along with the essence and particularity, then both the complete knowledge of the imputation of essence and the complete knowledge of the imputation of particularity are shown.’
What is ascertained with regard to “name” is the same for the other three complete knowledges. While there are four aspects with regard to perceived phenomena, i.e., “name,” “object,” “essence” and “particularity,” at a fundamental level, these are all mentated, conceptualized phenomena according to the Yogācāra School.
In demonstrating the imputation of “name,” the other four follow. That which is known as an “object” is known as such via the mental imputation of a mental signifier or “name.” The object and name together give rise to the imputation of two categories which characterize what is known as an object, i.e., its essence and particular characteristics. These also, are demonstrated as mere mental fictions following upon the demonstration of name and object as “entities” comprised of cognition, consciousness, or in short, as “mind-only.”
[265:5-] “If that is the case, the Four Investigations, even though one does not abide on the path, the Four Knowledges exist, having obtained a bit of certainty with regard to the selflessness of phenomena, it is necessarily applied, however (‘jog dgos kyi), the assertion that the Four Knowledges are not existent at the level of the ordinary individual is incorrect, because of the doctrine that the Four Knowledges exist in superior insight (lhag mthong, vipawyāna) meditation (bsgom pa) which is the realization of emptiness. Therefore from this, this doctrine is an entry into the cognition-only by way of the four knowledges.”